Surviving a mass shooting can have long-term effects on your mental and physical health. Some common post-shooting reactions can be disbelief, shock, disorientation, anger, fear, irritability, feeling powerless, emotional numbing, sadness, depression, and unrelenting anxiety. Become aware of any patterns in your life that have changed since experiencing the mass shootings. Become aware of changes in your sleep, eating, panic attacks, depression, temperament, and your relationship with others. You may need to get professional help or join a support group.
These are some survival tips that can support you as you navigate the horror after a mass shooting.
- Remember your breath. Take deep cleansing breaths, close your eyes, and blow out the stress and fear.
- Discover a mini. A mini is a short one- to two-minute meditation. Take a moment, if you are able, to close your eyes or focus your eyes on something. Take several deep diaphragmatic breaths and repeat a one- to five-word affirmation with each deep breath like “Keep letting go…”
- Prayer and meditation. We have great science about the health benefits of getting our mind, body, and soul quiet. The practice of silence has different names in different cultures and religions: meditation, the relaxation response, or centering prayer. Whatever you call this practice of silence, be sure to make it a regular part of your routine. Great apps that can help you are Mindful Living Network or Calm. The Meditation Room on the Mindful Living Network is also a great resource for you.
- Hold on to something. Put something you love in your pocket, around your neck, or on your wrist. It could be a picture, cross, or medallion on your neck or wrist. It could also be beads, a rosary, mala beads, or prayer beads. When you get stressed and overwhelmed, stop and touch the object; then breathe and repeat a soothing word or phrase that comforts you. Considering keeping a comforting book you with you, or on your Kindle, such as an inspirational book or a religious text like the Bible.
- Guided imagery. Imagine you are in a safe place. Envision your favorite vacation spot or a peaceful place you love. Breathe and close your eyes. If possible, use a guided imagery app on your phone.
- Journal. Disasters leave us feeling overwhelmed and confused and can cause stress and depression. We have studies that show journaling relieves stress by writing the fear and anxiety out of your body onto paper. Chronicle your journey through this trauma.
- Music. Listen to soothing music. It increases serotonin in the body, a healing chemical that helps with anxiety and depression.
- Walk. Take a walk to create endorphins in your body. Simple exercise, such as walking, relieves anxiety, stress, and major depression. That’s not all. Exercise stimulates your body, producing healing calming chemicals. It can also help you focus, improve your memory, and fall sleep at night.
- Stay connected with others. Ask for help when you need it. Talking about what is going on with you reduces the feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and helplessness. Community gives you strength, courage, and support. Contact at least one person; have an agreement that you will call, text, or email them when you need to release your fears, tears, anger, grief, or any of the many different emotions you will feel.
- Food is medicine. Try to keep your family’s diet as nourishing as possible under the circumstances.
- Eat breakfast. This increases metabolism by 25 percent. It helps you focus and aids your memory. Breakfast centers and grounds you and your family and helps you start the day.
- Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 creates serotonin in the body. Foods with lots of vitamin B6s include sweet potatoes, whole grains, rice, chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, bananas, and mangos.
- Endorphins. Try eating hot peppers and spices. They create endorphins in the body.
- Vitamin C. Studies show that vitamin C helps reduce stress hormone levels. So, try to eat lots of oranges and other foods packed with vitamin C.
- Protein. Proteins are the building blocks necessary for your body to function. Peanut butter is a non-perishable and an excellent source of protein.
Helping Children After a Mass Shooting
- Safety and security. Get your child something to cuddle: toy, blanket, or teddy bear. Touching something tactile helps them feel safe and secure.
- Touch your child. Hold your child—touching is important for children during this period. Physical touch reassures children that you are there and will not abandon them. This will help them feel safe.
- Reassure your child. As you touch your child, look into their eyes say, “We are together, we are safe, we will survive.”
- Talk and listen. Talk with your child and give them simple, accurate information about your current situation. Then listen to what your child says and their questions. Mirror your child’s question so your child is reassured that you heard them and you are present.