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  • How to Manage Gun Violence Fear

    Mass shootings have become an unfortunately regular occurrence all across America. In fact, as many as one-third of US adults report that they now avoid certain places and situations through fear of gun violence. High-profile get-togethers and even just bustling public places are certainly off the cards for many, while continual concerns can make relaxation difficult even in the comfort of our own homes. 

    None of this is conducive to our well-being, and it’s a worrying trend that highlights a very real and growing form of vicarious trauma as shootings continue to make national news. The escalating anxiety that’s possible as a result of this fear is especially concerning, but there are steps that you can take to better manage gun violence fear in general. Keep on reading to find out what they are. 

    # 1 – Give Your Feelings the Space They Deserve

    With vicarious trauma, in particular, it’s easy to invalidate your feelings through negative self-talk that focuses on the fact that you weren’t involved, or that you don’t have a right to feel upset by these events. In reality, though, gun violence, in particular, has a wide-reaching ripple effect, and it’s completely valid to feel shaken by these events. Instead of pushing those feelings of growing unease or fear away, give yourself the space and permission necessary to work through them, and to understand why you’re feeling how you’re feeling, and what you can do about it.

    # 2 – Limit Your Exposure to Current Events

    While there’s a valid train of thought that knowledge is the best first step towards change, it’s also important that you recognize when it would be best to take a step back from, say, recurrent shooting stories. This can be tricky because, when you’re traumatized by something, you may be more drawn to read about it. However, given the way that you’re feeling, this is only ever going to serve as fuel for your fears. So, permit yourself to step back from news stories of this nature at least until you’ve worked through this trauma, and make sure that you turn off things like social media notifications so that you’re better able to maintain the headspace that you need to feel calmer. 

    # 3 – Take Time Out if you Need it

    You may feel like you have no right to take time out considering that you’re witnessing these events from a distance, but pushing yourself to keep on working through any kind of trauma can prevent you from regaining balance. With that in mind, don’t hesitate to take a few days out if you feel that you need to do so. Engaging with hobbies or activities (e.g. knitting, reading, meditation, etc.) that help you to feel safer and calmer during this period can especially see you better able to reconnect with a steady sense of self, and ultimately return to your everyday routine without worrying every time that you leave the house. 

    # 4 – Set Aside a Safety Plan

    In large part, gun violence leads to escalating feelings of anxiety because it feels like it’s out of our control, which is why you may also benefit from putting yourself back in the driver’s seat with a safety plan for you and your family. While this won’t remove the threat of gun violence altogether, a plan that highlights everything from set meeting points to contacting emergency services can at least provide you with peace of mind that you would better be able to keep everyone safe if gun violence did ever find its way into your life. And, that’s going to go a huge way towards helping you to move past these overwhelming worries. 

    # 5 – Talk About It

    Even though fear surrounding gun violence is such a common occurrence, it’s something that surprisingly few people talk about. Yet, bottling these feelings up is going to give them space to grow, and could even leave them to escalate unchecked. By simply speaking out about how you feel with loved ones or a trained therapist, however, it should be far easier to work through whatever anxieties are plaguing you. A therapist who can provide you with crucial coping techniques, or even a friend who can show you that you aren’t alone, can then help you to begin working through this fear that’s been plaguing you, and taking positive steps towards a time in the not so distant future when you’ll finally be able to attend even large-scale events without worry.