“ARC Issues Guidelines for Coping with Stress during Recent Traumatic Events”

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This April 20, 2013 article on the GanDaily.com website talks about tips from the American Red Cross for coping with tragic events.  As the article points out it’s been a rough week for our country, with a bombing, flooding and a fertilizer plant explosion, I feel like I’ve reached a bit of a breaking point myself.  I have an anxiety disorder that causes issues for me under the best of conditions. With tragedies that make it into national headlines my anxiety sky rockets.  Not so much because I’m directly affected by what is happening, but I tend to fear for the lives of others, I hope they will make it through in one piece, but at the same time questions like “what would I do in their shoes?”  or “what if that happened in my area?”  the way my brain is wired it goes into overdrive trying to figure out answers to these and many other questions.  I see an increase in the frequency of my panic attacks, and find that I tend to struggle more with leaving home.  Yes, often I realize my fears are irrational, and that what happened in Texas, Boston or the midwest isn’t happening here, which helps me stay grounded.  On the other hand there are things mentioned in this article that I have worked on doing myself.  A prime example would be not allowing myself to be glued to the tv or other media outlets when there is something big happening.  I don’t need to know the play-by-play details of the horror to know it’s bad …. I allow myself to watch a few minutes here and there but then go into what I call a personal “media blackout” where I do anything I want as long as it doesn’t involve the media.  The media blackouts allow me to regroup, refocus, and in many ways not put myself into a major tailspin with my anxiety issues.  A wise therapist I once had suggested to me at one point that maybe I should “strive for balance as opposed to normality” it took awhile for me to understand what was meant, by it, and I feel like in many ways I’m still learning about it.  What I know at this point though is that normal doesn’t work for most people (myself included) it’s an elusive carrot on a stick of sorts we think we see it, but can never seem to do what we think we see.  I’ve found that balance is more realistic and often times more achievable.  I chose not to glue myself to the live feeds of the Boston marathon bombing, not because I didn’t care, but because I needed to keep myself healthy. I chose to allow myself a few minutes of media coverage so I would be aware of what was occurring, but at the same time I chose to do things like play Sims 3 or World of Warcraft to occupy my mind.  I also chose to do things like tackle some of the clutter in my home, or go for a walk, or simply relax with my knitting and sometimes even reached out and talked to friends or family members about anything that didn’t focus on the horrors that were unfolding.  For me, I feel that making these choices were examples of what my former therapist was saying when she suggested I strive for balance.  It’s about what is going to keep me functioning at a level that is healthy.  I feel that the tips offered in the article from the American Red Cross magnify balance as opposed to normality and they are simple tips that could be applied to anyone’s life.  Take time to balance your life even if it is just for a moment, because without balance none of us will be of any benefit to those around us.

 

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