The terrible incidents in London and Manchester in recent weeks have shocked us all and thoughts go straight to the victims, their families and all those affected. While tragedies happen every day, events like these are acutely frightening. My work involves a great deal of city travelling and after the weekend I found myself thinking a lot about what had gone on, the people directly impacted and the personal “what if” scenario. These terrible acts of terrorism, although not directly impacted me had knocked my sense of security and normalcy. I guess it unsettles us all the more because we can’t distinguish ourselves from those affected: they were simply going about their daily lives.
However, regaining that sense of security is essential for our health. We’re more scared and anxious when our sense of normalcy has been eroded, which can reduce our quality of life and tests our sense of resiliency. This is driven by fear, which is a natural response to events like these.
Despite being reassured and asked to stand tall and carry on as normal to show that terrorism won’t win. We all react differently to fear, and in the aftermath of recent events it can push people to make different decisions about (for example) employment; who and how they socialise, using public transportation, being in public and crowded places and travelling on airplanes.
So, how can we regain feelings of resilience and safety in a vulnerable world? At Curium we often talk about this as we help people through the uncertainty of change. Although the situation is not the same, some of the strategies can still apply:
- Understand what’s in your control – It’s always useful to work out if you have any control over the situation. If you realise that even in these circumstances you have some control or influence then you can choose to do something about it, action does wonders to reduce feelings of fear and worry. If you realise you have no control over the situation then see this as a way to free yourself from the emotion. You can’t do anything to change the situation, so whether you worry or not, the situation stays the same, so you may as well focus your energy and your time on figuring out the best way to accept the situation and how to look after yourself whilst getting on with your daily life. Often we do the opposite to this, we convince ourselves that there is nothing that can be done, when with little thought there is, and we waste priceless energy worrying when we know really we have no control to change things.
- Plan ahead – Linked to understanding what’s in your control, be proactive about making your world a little safer. For example, considering what I can do to be more aware and vigilant on my journeys to the city gives me a sense of empowerment, as well as being more thoughtful about telling family and friends about my whereabouts so that they don’t worry or have a contact point in an emergency if my phone isn’t working. Planning ahead offers a sense of control and preparation.
- Connect – In times of uncertainty, one of the enablers is to reach out and connect with people around you. People who may be experiencing similar uncertainty, that understand and can help. All change but particularly these types of events, remind us of the bonds that unite us. We’re all in this life journey together, and joining hands with others at times like this helps us reclaim some sense of power and autonomy as positive agents of change and reminds us that we’re bigger than just ourselves. Contribute to funds for affected families, give blood, donate your time to the community, write letters to the survivors or the victims families. There are so many ways to show support; do what feels right to you.
- Appreciate the Now – For most of us one of deep held beliefs is that the world is basically a safe place. If it weren’t for this belief, we would find it difficult to leave the house. But when recent events such as these happen, it shakes our belief to the core and our thoughts can run wild with stories. Taking a little quiet time out and reminding yourself that the world is basically safe can go some way to overcoming this. The stats and facts show that for those of us fortunate enough to live in the Western world, we really do have more risk of becoming a fatality to natural causes than anything else. Hold that belief, because it’s accurate, while understanding that it’s not guaranteed.
Once you do this, take the time to appreciate the now. Think about all the happy moments you are lucky enough to experience, the love of family and friends, life’s free pleasures, your home, your relationship. Anything that you are grateful for. Its helpful to take the time out to list these. Most importantly, as hard as it is, try to remember that your thoughts are not necessarily reality, our heads make up stories and “what if”, look at the facts and the what is instead and don’t let the little things that irritate and frustrate you take over your life.