ALLEN (CBSNewsTexas.com) – As we grapple with yet another mass shooting in this country, many people have become understandably concerned when it comes to their safety, especially since it happened in our backyard.
But as we’ve discovered, there are varying degrees of concern.
A medical health expert has some tips to help you keep worry at a healthy level.
When mass shootings occur, it can feel like nowhere is safer. Schools, churches, grocery stores, concerts—they’ve all been targets of shooters in recent years.
Mental health experts say it’s understandable to be worried, but letting worry turn into needless anxiety — and then outright fear — is when it can become a problem.
“A little worry helps us do well. It helps us show up for work, it helps us study for the exam, it helps us make good parenting decisions, but if we let it slide, we’ll end up isolated, disengaged, and not living a meaningful life, and then we will suffer physically and psychologically,” says Dr. Kevin Gilliland, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist in Dallas.
Gilliland says that after events like Allen’s, even people completely unrelated to the tragedy can go from a healthy state of situational awareness in their lives to feeling anxiety and fear almost everywhere.
“If you think about when you almost got into a car accident and avoided it, we all have the same (exhale) that fear in multiple places and situations,” Gilliland says.
She says not managing that constant “fight or flight” fear response is exhausting on our bodies and our bodies will start to break down.
But she says there are a few ways to try to regain control, and it starts with a deep, calming breath.
“We all know it’s fight or flight,” Gilliland says. “Well, what’s the opposite of that, that slows us down? It’s called ‘resting and digesting.’ And so when you take that big breath, it automatically slows down our body because it brings our best thoughts back online.”
He says that as horrific as these events are, they are really low-frequency events. Here are four simple steps to help you avoid a life of unnecessary and crippling fear:
- Ask yourself if what you are feeling really matches the current situation.
- Be careful with how much information you are consuming on the air, online and on social media. If you’re consuming too much, you could accidentally increase your own anxiety.
- Stay connected to a healthy and emotionally uplifting community to help pull you out of avoidance and isolation.
- And don’t be afraid to talk to a counselor who can help you work through those emotions.