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Why Is This Affecting Me?

A collective bonding happens when a disaster strikes like the bombing that tore through Boston. We all feel a sense of loss, even though the event happened far away. We all feel anxiety. We all feel powerless. It rocks our sense of safety and security. Who among us hasn’t been in a crowd like the one at the finishing line at the Boston Marathon? We know that it could have been us, and we identify with the sense of helplessness. The casualties and the injured were as innocent as you and me.

We are all among the survivors. We are the observers with so many unanswered questions about who or what caused the explosions. Until the forensic evidence comes together, we are in a cloud of wonder. Will it happen again? And more important, why?

We all experience a disaster on many levels, living and reliving the emotional impact and projecting how we would manage or cope if it happened to us. When we hear that an eight-year-old boy is among the fatalities, we think of someone we know who is eight years old. What must the boy’s family be going through, especially knowing that two other family members were severely injured? When we see that one of the first responders was the Police Department’s LGBT liaison, we take a sense of pride because we want the world to see that we do contribute to society and are not reduced to a stereotype.

Reactions to a disaster vary from person to person. Some people immerse themselves in the media coverage. Some become reclusive, while others become uncharacteristically talkative. Some feel numb or paralyzed by fear. Some are relieved because it didn’t happen to them. Some donate blood or raise money for the victims. Some pray. Some are quick to cast blame. Some are angry. All of those responses are justified and normal, and many of us will probably go through several different stages in the days and weeks ahead.

According to the Montrose Center’s Clinical Director, Christopher Kerr, MEd, LPC, one healing technique is to find ways in which you do have control over your life. “When you feel vulnerable, you may have to make a stronger effort to nurture yourself, but that’s when it is most important. Even small steps count.”

That means if you’re in recovery, go to a meeting. Remember the strength it gives you and that you can give others just by being there. If you’re not in recovery, avoid coping mechanisms that make you feel out of control. If you’re stress eater, take a walk to get a frozen yogurt instead of the drive-through for a super-sized #6. If you can, build more routine into your daily life by including physical activity and plenty of rest. Eat at regularly scheduled times. Allow yourself some pleasure by renting a favorite movie or meeting friends for a concert at the park. Light a candle. Have playtime with your pet.

Now is a time to be patient with yourself and others. Click here to hone your coping skills and for more suggestions on how to reduce stress in your life. If you think you would benefit from talking to a licensed therapist, please give us a call at 713.529.0037.

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