I’m not an avid social media user, but I was a grateful one when a friend of mine who lives in Turkey marked herself safe on Facebook after the explosion in Istanbul in early December. I read the news daily, but there is still a naïve and sheltered part of me that is amazed we live in a world where we have to mark ourselves as safe.
Since then, I’ve had other friends do this for various reasons, and it makes my stomach turn every time. I’m not a doomsday conspiracy theorist, but I do read the news and intellectually engage the reality of the world around me, which dictates that disasters and threats occur. Constant awareness of this can be anxiety-inducing and drive you nuts.
Mind you, I realize that I’m incredibly blessed to live in a part of the world where safety is more or less a given. Yet, the reality of the way the world is changing means that fear is a given and safety is not something to be taken for granted. I’ll admit that I’ve always been highly sensitive; however, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t confessed feeling uneasy at one time or another over the prospect of an irrational act of terror or an unexpected natural disaster taking place. Because of this, we all have to learn how to be mentally resilient and peaceful despite whatever changes are occurring.
A few things have helped me stay in touch with reality while managing catastrophic fears (rational or irrational). First, I remind myself that we are highly adaptable and even as the world changes in ways we never thought possible, for better or worse, we will adapt to them and a new way of life. Second, I take a deep breath and check the facts to put things in perspective. Am I safe now? Are my family members and friends safe? Is there a direct threat to us at this moment? Identifying the safety I’m experiencing in the present moment and realistically evaluating risks with someone I trust and can talk to seem to bring me down to earth. Third, I mark myself mentally safe. I can create a million scenarios where I could get hurt or my children could get hurt. This is a maddening tendency, so once I’ve checked the facts and determined that my present reality is a safe one, I make the conscious choice to mark myself as safe physically and, more importantly, mentally. It’s like telling my brain to ef off and making the decision to stay present and assume a calm position until I have reason to think otherwise. Finally, I get off of social media or the news and if I have heard or read about something horrible that has happened, I say a prayer for everyone involved and those who care about them. I consider myself to be more spiritual than religious, so this isn’t a church thing. Prayer is one of the only tools we have to help people, especially when we feel helpless or unable to help.
Try marking yourself as safe whenever you feel fearful or get overwhelmed with catastrophic thoughts.Image source: Wolfgang Tillmans