The world sure is a chaotic place lately. Are you suddenly rethinking all of your daily routines, and wondering just how many could be disrupted by violence? Unfortunately, that’s normal. Anxiety over mass shootings is a very real consequence to the increase in mass shootings and media coverage of them.
The latest mass shooting in a Colorado grocery store took place less than a week after eight people were killed in a series of attacks on spas in Atlanta. 2021’s mass shootings, have killed more than 120 people and injured at least 380 others. Six of those shootings count as mass murders, where four or more people have been killed in a single incident not counting the shooter.
Two massacres in less than a week have left communities across the country in shock and reignited the debate on gun control. But despite mass shootings being somewhat absent from headlines during the coronavirus pandemic, data shows they were still happening in large numbers.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group that catalogs gun violence in the U.S., 104 mass shootings have occurred in 29 states plus Washington, D.C. in 2021 so far. Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot or killed in a single incident not including the shooter.
It’s a dramatic rise compared to the same date last year—66 mass shootings had taken place by March 23, 2020, the group said in a tweet. The coronavirus lockdowns that transformed life in the U.S. in the months that followed did little to stop mass shootings—611 took place in 2020 overall, the highest number since the Gun Violence Archive started tracking them in 2014. per Newsweek
Shock, anxiety and fear are normal reactions to seemingly random acts of mass violence. When those feelings start to take over your life, or become overwhelming, it’s critical to take steps to manage it. New tragedies also can reawaken anxiety and fear from past events. People who have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the past can suffer from it again. Furthermore, research shows that many people are already dealing with mental health challenges related to the pandemic. Studies have shown that four of every 10 adults have coped with anxiety or depression over the last year, up from one in 10 prior to the pandemic. Children and teens have been suffering as well.
Steps to Managing Anxiety & Fear over Acts of Violence
- Acknowledge the feelings. As with many forms of anxiety, stress, panic, fear or even addiction, the first step is to admit to yourself you are struggling, and stop beating yourself up for that. That simple step, studies have shown, can move the issue from the reactionary “fight or flight” part of your brain and into the problem-solving portions of your brain.
- Become aware of triggers. You may feel uneasy going into certain places- for instance, many people were nervous about going into movie theaters after the mass shooting at a theater in Denver several years ago. That uneasiness is normal, and identifying the trigger is a great step toward forming an action plan.
- Be mindful of media. We are increasingly surrounded by news, and much of that news is an echo chamber. Seeing the same tragic news repeatedly can often make the situation seem unbearable, and pervasive. When media becomes overwhelming, take a step back and away from it.
- Practice self care. Self care can take many forms, such as relaxation exercises and deep breathing, walking, exercise, journaling, or even something as simple as a distraction.
- Be aware of the way trauma may be affecting your mood and body. You may be irritable, or have issues with sleep. You may find it difficult to concentrate at work. If you find yourself relying on substances more, or any sort of compulsive behavior, it’s highly recommended to seek help from a counseling center near you.
- Talk to your support system. It’s incredibly helpful to talk to those you are close to about your feelings, and how the recent events have impacted you. Seek out friends, family members or people in your community and share your feelings and experiences. In general, it’s helpful to talk about fears and experiences. While talking with friends can be very helpful, if you notice physical or emotional symptoms continuing, then it’s wise to seek professional help.
- Keep positive routines. Keep positive routines like getting enough sleep, exercising, eating right. Taking good care of your body is a good start to giving your mind a chance to feel healthier. Getting outside to move around can be proof that good parts of the world do carry on.
- Seek help. There is no stigma to reaching out for help, and professional help can equip you with many additional coping techniques to help you through this time. Additionally, setting aside designated time to talk through things helps from intruding on the rest of your day, and allow you to focus.