Family

11 small ways to feel less helpless this week, from a trained therapist.

If you feel helpless following the Orlando shooting, you're not alone.

11 small ways to feel less helpless this week, from a trained therapist.

On the morning of June 12, 2016, I’d imagine that you, like me, woke up to the story of the Orlando, Florida, mass shooting in the Pulse nightclub.

Like mine, your social media newsfeed was probably flooded with stories about the tragedy.


Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images.

And perhaps you, like me, felt your stomach sink and your heart grow heavy. Another mass shooting. The worst in recent U.S. history. And one where the clear intent seems to be terror and hate.

When I first heard the news, I felt a sense of defeat come over me and a sort of numbness settled in.

Intellectually, I got it: “Another mass shooting, a hate crime, ties to ISIS. This is absolutely terrible but not too surprising,” my brain said. But I wasn’t feeling the emotional pain of it just yet.

Then I watched the faces on the news and the photos of people lined up to donate blood, and I imagined what those victims must have planned as a fun, carefree night. I was struck by the horror of what it means when the places we gather for fun and entertainment are no longer safe. I was gripped by the sheer senseless tragedy of life when people are targeted for their sexual orientation.

If you, like me, feel more than just a little bit helpless, angry, and numb than usual, I want you to know you’re not alone.

As a fellow human affected by the events in Orlando, I join you in all these feelings. There’s helplessness, anger, shock, sadness, numbness, and desensitization. And as a professional psychotherapist, I can also tell you that these feelings are a completely normal and natural reaction to the stress of observing and processing traumatic global events.

In this post-9/11 world, we’re witnessing more and more local, national, and global tragedies every day.

Each of them is like a little trauma, a wound on our individual and collective psyches, aggravated each time a new and heartbreaking tragedy unfolds and enters our lives through immediate or distanced observation. This mass shooting in Orlando, compounded with all the other tragedies our generation has witnessed, feels like so much to hold.

Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images.

With all these feelings and emotions comes an even bigger question though: What can we DO about it, so as not to feel helpless, alone, and stuck?

To help you hold the weight of this world, I want to offer some actionable suggestions for things you can do this week, both psychologically and socially. Hopefully, these small things will help you process, feel less helpless, and even help those around you this week:

1. Acknowledge and feel your feelings. All of them.

There’s no such thing as a bad feeling (though some may feel more comfortable than others). Allow yourself to feel today, tomorrow, and this week, and to be with whatever comes up for you around this. Process your feelings safely and constructively.

2. Don’t isolate. Connect.

Connect with your loved ones, your local community, your larger communities (even if by phone or over social media). Share how you’re feeling. Talk it out, let others hold space for you while you hold space for them.

3. Limit your media consumption if needed.

This is so important with news being blasted at us from every angle. Monitor how much news and content about the tragedy you can tolerate before it starts to feel like too much.

4. Refocus on your self-care and healthy coping resources.

Garden, cook, knit, craft, go for a long walk, journal, sit outside in the sun. Do whatever you know helps you feel grounded, safe, and healthy.

5. Stick to your routines.

Routines and schedules can be incredibly grounding in times of stress. Keep up your daily and weekly rituals.

6. Exercise.

Moving your body can help process and metabolize the stress and anxiety you may be feeling. Add in an extra walk or two and really make grounding and focusing on your body a priority.

7. Dance, draw, paint, or photograph your feelings about this.

Create art and process your experience through creation.

8. Turn toward supports and ask for help.

If you need additional resources, book a session with a therapist, speak to your local clergy, or call up a trusted mentor. Let those who care about you help you.

9. Get involved in any way that you can.

Donate blood, send money, participate in activism around gun-control laws, help staff a help line, bring food and water to those in line to donate blood.

10. Host or join a community process group.

Check out your local YMCA or church or university offerings to see if they’re hosting a support group for those impacted by the tragedy. If none are offered, consider hosting one with a friend or local helping resource.

11. Pray.

Yes, pray. Whether you believe in God, Allah, Gaia, or Universal Spirit, close your eyes and ask something greater than you for guidance in troubled times. Receive the support that can come from being in prayer.

Being a human is often scary, overwhelming, and vulnerable.

Tragedies like the Orlando shooting illuminate the fragility and unpredictability of life. I think that, for most of us, this can be a very hard thing to face.

Part of the pain and terror of the recent shooting in Orlando, specifically, is that we were reminded, yet again, that the places where we convene to celebrate and to play are not necessarily safe.

The shooting in Orlando also reminds us that murderous hate is alive and active, especially toward certain communities. And lacking national gun regulation laws makes it easier for people to act out on their anger.

But these same tragedies can call upon us to open ourselves up too.

They call on us to be more vulnerable, to be more fully alive and in touch with our feelings, to be more compassionate and caring toward others, and to be more active and peaceful in our politics and social engagements.

Photo by Daniel Munoz/Getty Images.

These same tragedies can remind us of the preciousness of life, if we allow them to.

Please, take good care of yourself this week. Seek out the support and resources you may need to deal with how the events in Orlando affected you.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

The fasting period of Ramadan observed by Muslims around the world is a both an individual and communal observance. For the individual, it's a time to grow closer to God through sacrifice and detachment from physical desires. For the community, it's a time to gather in joy and fellowship at sunset, breaking bread together after abstaining from food and drink since sunrise.

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited group gatherings in many countries, putting a damper on the communal part of Ramadan. But for one community in Barcelona, Spain, a different faith has stepped up to make the after sunset meal, known as Iftar, as safe as possible for the Muslim community.

According to Reuters, Father Peio Sanchez, Santa Anna's rector, has opened the doors of the Catholic church's open-air cloisters to local Muslims to use for breaking the Ramadan fast. He sees the different faiths coming together as a symbol of civic coexistence.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of CeraVe
True

"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

Keep Reading Show less