Mass shootings are tragically too common in the United States and as a result have been a large topic throughout the media. Newspapers, TV stations, and social media offer a constant flood of coverage of shootings and hearing about these can effect our sense of safety and order. According to Thomson, Jones, Holman, and Silver (2019) media exposure to mass violence can increase distress surrounding later events, fueling a “distress cycle”. This cycle can continue to fuel post-traumatic symptoms, despair, distress, dread and disconnection from society as a whole as our brain has an emotional capacity to process these traumatic events.
1 . Pay Attention to your emotional health
It is normal to feel frustrated at gun policies or politicians, scared of the proximity of shootings from where you are located, or sad surrounding the tragedy of lost lives. Stop and ask yourself what emotions are coming up for you. If it feels like it takes a lot of effort to feel calm or lower distress then maybe that is a good sign for a break from media exposure. During commercial breaks or ads, ask yourself things such as: What feelings does this piece of media trigger? Do you notice any physical sensations? How long does it take to regulate or is there a lot of effort needing to put in to feel regulated? Do you feel “stuck” in a particular mood or can’t stop watching or reading?
2 . Take Breaks
Even if you are feeling okay, you can still take breaks away from the news. As stated previously, our brain only has the emotional capacity to absorb so much so breaks can be important in maintaining emotional health. Try to engage in self-soothing or stress-relieving strategies such as exercise, talking to a friend, crafts, or meditation.
3. Avoid constant scrolling
Twitter, TikTok and other social media sights are designed to keep a user scrolling on their app. “Doomscrolling” through content related to the tragedy can keep you feeling stuck in the stress and pain surrounding the event. Tiktok and other social media websites will continue to feed you emotionally charged content. Try filtering out hashtags related to mass shootings such as “#gunviolence” to give yourself a break or taking a break from the apps all together.
4. Stick to the sources
Misinformation spreads all over social media. Stick to sources that you personally trust to get any updates on the news and scroll past any potential “trolls” potentially spreading rumors or possibly posing as witnesses.
5. Reach out to your support system
It is really normal to feel a range of emotions after a mass shooting. As stated before, sometimes these emotions can lead to feelings of isolation or alienation. Reach out to someone you trust and if feelings continue to persist or worsen, consider reaching out to a therapist to help support you.
6. Be honest with your kids
If you are a parent, your kids may come to you with questions. It can be important to understand what your child knows so far, to help support any emotional disturbance, and to clear up any misconceptions they have.
- Author: Carolyn Rhoades
- Thompson, R. R., Jones, N. M., Holman, E. A., & Silver, R. C. (2019). Media exposure to mass violence events can fuel a cycle of distress. Science advances, 5(4), eaav3502.
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