A number of horrifying stories have been part of the daily news reports and splashed across the Internet in the past few weeks. The gruesome actions of ISIS, the spread of Ebola, and — hitting close to home in Virginia — the disappearance of Hannah Graham,a UVA sophomore are all horrific events that have reminded us on a daily basis that we’re vulnerable overseas, at home, in our neighborhoods, on planes, while trying to do good in the world, while at college, or while blowing off steam on a Saturday night.
If you’re someone who tends to have a higher-than-average level of anxiety anyway, so much exposure to these kinds of world events can create a constant feeling of heightened stress, leading to difficulty sleeping, distractibility, and feelings of unease and anxiety. We can feel powerless in the face of forces that seem all-powerful, uncontrollable, and malevolent.
You may find yourself turning off the news, changing the radio station, or avoiding accounts of tragedy just to cope, but then feeling guilty: there are devastated parents out there who can’t find their daughter who can’t change the channel on their lives. For them, the tragedy just keeps playing.
While it’s true that there are many events over which we have no control, doing nothing tends to make anxiety worse. So while we may not be able to tackle the whole problem or turn back time, we can certainly each do our small part to work for social change. If you find yourself overwhelmed by anxiety in the wake of current events, consider taking these actions that may help the world and yourself at the same time:
- Contact your local volunteer bureau and find a way to give back.
- Write your congressional representative to express your opinions.
- Participate in community vigils.
- Volunteer to take a shift in a search for a missing person.
- Write a letter of sympathy and support.
- Help raise money or awareness.
- Get involved in supporting local law enforcement.
- Attend community open forums with local lawmakers.
- Get training in CPR and disaster-preparedness.
These are just a few ways to turn your fear into fuel for change. I’d love to hear your ideas or stories turning anxiety into a positive action. Please feel free to share and push us all to do our part.