Understanding responses to tragic events can help you cope effectively with your feelings, thoughts and behaviors along the path to recovery.

The mass shooting last week in Gilroy, CA, and this weekend in El Paso, TX, and Dayton, OH, have once again shocked the nation to a state of alarm. Everyone responds in their own unique way and most often, carry a myriad of complex and unpleasant feelings into the workplace. 

There are ways to channel feelings and process the experiences in a way that’s helpful for individuals and for the team.

Start to heal following national tragedies using these 5 tips and suggestions:

1. Talk.

Tragic events can cause feelings of disillusionment, a sense of unreality and feeling lost. Talking can help to serve as a reality check; that the unbelievable events are also unbelievable to others as well and the loss of equilibrium is a shared experience. Unhealthy preoccupation, spreading of rumors and speculation should be kept in check. If you feel like you need to talk to someone, contact your company's EAP.

2.  Join a Cause.
Hopelessness, sadness and despair are also common reactions to gun violence. These feelings can sometimes be alleviated by doing something productive to help others. An excellent example of this idea in action happened when the call for blood donations in the El Paso area following the mass shooting resulted in an immediate flood of volunteers. People may be inspired to join a cause, call Congress, donate or volunteer. Sometimes a business can help funnel independent efforts into a coordinated offering.

3. Media Detox.
Feeling overwhelmed can fester and lead to more emotional complications. To prevent becoming overwhelmed it’s important to take a break from the continuous coverage and commentary. Given the proliferation of screens in our lives, it can be hard to avoid, but turning off the TV and keeping the phone out of sight can be small, helpful steps. Or have planned exposure; for example, allow 10 minutes at lunch time for updates, and 10 minutes after dinner. This way, wallowing and ruminating, which can quickly become unhealthy, can be avoided or at least minimized.

4. Mental Health Tune-up.
People who have suffered a previous trauma may have old, unpleasant feelings suddenly return when processing recent events. This is commonly being referred to as being “triggered”. If this should happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean the person lost any progress made in coping and adapting with the original tragedy. In fact, feeling triggered and having old feelings resurface is common and should be expected from time to time. In situations where someone may become overwhelmed, it may be helpful for a brief tune-up with a mental health professional, easily accessed through your company's EAP.

5. Celebration of Life Ceremony. 
Celebrating the life of a lost loved one can help with grief.  In some cultures, death is marked by lighting displays that symbolize the passage of the soul to the afterlife. Sky lanterns are a safe way to honor your loved one after a tragic event. 

It’s hard to not be affected by multiple, mass crimes in seemingly safe places. Even people who don’t report feeling impacted will be wise to take care of themselves as a healthy preemptive way to maintain a sense of balance. This includes ensuring adequate, quality sleep above all else. Proper nutrition, exercise, and healthy, non-anxiety producing socialization is also critically important in a self-care regiment.

Learn more about how an EAP can help you improve the mental health and overall well-being of everyone in your organization:

  • Key differences (embedded VS Ulliance)
  • Compare costs and usage rates 
  • Learn what to ask potential providers

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Many businesses turn to Ulliance experts every year to help create positive work environments through Wellness, Employee Assistance and other programs. How can we help you? Visit www.ulliance.com, or call 866-648-8326.

If your company doesn't offer an EAP, we have additional resources for you to contact. The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is a national hotline dedicated to providing year-round disaster crisis counseling. This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 via telephone (1-800-985-5990) and SMS (text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746) to residents in the U.S. and its territories who are experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. Callers and texters are connected to trained and caring professionals from a network of crisis centers across the country. Helpline staff provide supportive counseling, including information on common stress reactions and healthy coping, as well as referrals to local disaster-related resources for follow-up care and support.

Visit http://disasterdistress.samhsa.gov for additional information and resources related to disaster behavioral health.