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How to Cope with Negativity When Disasters Happen

How to Cope with Negativity When Disasters Happen

This world can be a scary place. Just turn on the news and you can hear about hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, mass shootings, acts of terror, and more happening in our world every day. The horrible things happening in the world and the sheer number of people dying because of disasters can be overwhelming.

Anything Bad Happens, You Instantly Know

We live in a world where we hear about these devastations on a minute by minute basis. No delay in the information and sad stories reaching us because the internet has made news come into our homes the minute it happens. A hundred years ago it would have taken a lot longer to get the information about disasters around the world. People were dependent on newspapers as their main source of news. There was no internet a hundred years ago. There also weren’t televisions. We need to be cognisant of the information that is going into our homes and minds, as it affects our emotional and mental well being.

Since we can hear about all the horrible things going on around the word the instant they happen, we can be emotionally affected by what we see and hear. We can become sad or even depressed because of over exposure to the negative things happening in our world. You may find yourself overly focusing on thing happening around the world in comparison to your own life or family. You may become to feel overwhelmed, helpless, and so distracted that it affects your ability to function in one or more areas of our own life.

Stop Letting Negativity Overwhelm You

We need to learn how to cope with this negative information that constantly inundates us. We may not feel that we are internalizing the negative stories and facts, but it is human nature to relate to others. When we hear about tragedies, it is hard for us not to react emotionally and internalize the events, even when we are not directly affected by the tragedy or disaster. Therefore, learning how to cope in a world full of tragedy is something everyone needs. Let’s look into the practical tips for coping with the negativity.

1. Limit Your Exposure to Negative Media

Some of the most pessimistic and negative people I have ever encountered were individuals who watched news stations for hour on end every day. They each seemed to have an obsession with the happenings in the world, especially the negative activities. The conversations often revolved around the depressing and deplorable events that had happened the day before and were reported on the news. They were so pre-occupied with the news that it was affecting their own life and well being. It definitely skewed their perspective of the world too as they viewed everything through the lens that all in the world was doom and gloom.

What we put into our mind has a powerful effect on our mental, emotional, and spiritual well being. Keep the negativity to a minimum. If you are exposing yourself to negative media sources for hours each day, then you are likely to begin feeling negative. We become a reflection of what we expose ourselves to over time. If that source is constant negativity then you too will inevitably become negative. It is simply how the human mind and our emotions work.

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    It is good to be informed about world events and what is happening around the globe. However, it is another level to dwell on these events. If you find yourself constantly thinking about all the terrible things happening in the world, then you may have to limit your intake of negative news, whatever that source may be. What we put into our mind is not easily forgotten, therefore be conscientious of what you are allowing to go into your mind. Graphic images and stories especially affect us, as they take the story to another level. These can have a devastating effect on our well being if we are continually bombarded by graphic messages. You are the gate keeper of what goes into your mind. Know that what goes into your mind naturally affects your heart and spirit. It is the way the human body works. We can’t avoid the way we work naturally, but we can avoid content that may be damaging to our heart, mind, and spirit.

    2. Keep Up With Normal Activities

    Disasters are inevitable in this world. There will never be complete world peace or a world without natural disasters. We need to learn to cope with news of the horrific things going on in the world and still function. When you are feeling that what is going on in the world is affecting your emotional well being or psyche, it is time to make sure you are still keeping up with your life. Don’t stop with your normal activities because there is a disaster striking on the other side of the country and there isn’t anything you can do about it other than donate. Donate and then move on with your life. If you can volunteer that is even better, but that it not always possible. If all you can do is sit and stew about the situation, then stop stewing, get up, and resume your normal activities.

    When a hurricane recently hit South Florida I had family that stayed during the disaster. I watched the news too much, I stewed, I worried, and I texted far too often. I let their situation consume my life because I had no control over what was going on, even though they assured me they were all in hurricane safe locations. After a day or two of this behavior I realized that I needed to get off the couch, do some laundry, take the kids to the playground, make a decent meal, and generally continue on with normal activities. I knew I would be updated by family members when possible, but the angst was so much worse when I was glued to the TV and avoiding my normal activities.

    Don’t do what I did. Keep doing your normal activities. You are of no help to anyone by worrying. It does not fix anything or help anyone. Donating or volunteering can help, but if you can’t do those things then keep up with the world around you in your everyday life. Soon enough disaster may hit your life directly and you will be wistful for those normal, mundane activities.

    Embrace your life, and not the sorrows of others. Your turn may eventually come. Until then, help where you can and keep the spirits up for those around you, as there is so much negativity in this world to overcome. Be the voice of all things positive and joyful in this world. You will find that being positive will help others become positive as well. It becomes contagious, just as negative attitudes spread like a contagion.

    3. Acknowledge the Loss Others are Experiencing

    Reach out and call or text a family or friend who was affected by tragedy. For example, if you know someone living in California and they are in the path of the current fires that are sweeping that state, then reach out to them to see if they are ok. Let them know you are concerned for them and hope (or pray) that all is ok with them and their home. Make contact with those you know who are affected to let them know you care. You will find that your expression of care toward others is cathartic for your own emotional well being.

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      Social media can be helpful in showing you care and allowing you to express yourself. You can show your care and compassion for others by posting an empathetic message for survivors and victims of a current tragedy or disaster. You will also be able to find others who relate to your feelings on social media, as friends may comment on your posting.

      4. Get Exercise, Fresh Air, and Sunshine

      The benefits of a moderate amount of daily sunshine have been proven by science to reduce the risk of major health issues like many types of cancer. Sunshine also reduces anxiety, depression, and increases the production of serotonin (the good stuff in our brain that makes us happy). HealthLine wrote about these benefits and state the following:[1]

      Sunlight and darkness trigger the release of hormones in your brain. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. This is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused.

      When dealing with stress from worldwide disaster and calamity, sunshine can help to boost your mood naturally. Get outside each day for 15-20 minutes to try to get a natural boost in your mood and immunity, as HealthLine cited that sunshine can also help boost your immune system.

      Exercise naturally boosts our endorphins. These help us feel good. If you are outside exericizing that is a win-win! The Mayo Clinic stated the following about exercise and stress:[2]

      Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.

      Get outside, get active, and you will find yourself distracted from your worries and your mood boosted naturally at the same time.

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      5. Talk it Out

      If you are having feelings of sadness, anxiety, or depression because of what is happening in the world, then you should talk to someone. Sometimes just having a friend to talk it out is helpful enough. Don’t keep it bottled up because that is never beneficial. Share your thoughts and feelings with someone who cares about you, as they will be more willing to take the time to listen.

      If you find that you are still feeling heavy or intense emotions then you should contact a professional. They can help you work through your emotions and help you find ways to cope with what is happening in the world. You can find a therapist or counselor near you by going to this website and entering your zip code: Psychology Today Therapist Search Tool.

      6. Volunteer, Donate, or Educate Others

      Sometimes opportunity presents itself to go and volunteer when a tragedy has happened. I had a friend on vacation in Las Vegas when the tragedy recently struck that city. Rather that sit in her hotel room, watch the news, and feel depressed about the horrible situation, she sprung into action. She went and delivered food and water to rescue workers who had been working around the clock. It may be a small way to help, but it mattered to those rescue workers who got the food and water from her because they likely were exhausted, hungry, and thirsty. Help, big and small, is good and useful when a tragedy strikes. However, not everyone has the time or opportunity to volunteer to help when disasters happen. We can always donate though.

      When you feel moved by a particular travesty in the world a great way to help is by donating money. Finding a good organization is easier than you think. The website Charity Navigator is great resource for locating a place to donate. This website provides ratings for non-profits, based on each organization’s 990 form with the IRS. This provides legitimate data by which Charity Navigator is able to analyze the percentage of money that goes toward actually helping versus administrative costs and fundraising efforts. They have nearly 9,000 organizations listed on the site and you can donate directly to an organization via their website.

      If you are looking to donate directly toward a specific cause, such as helping those affected by the hurricane in Puerto Rico, you go to “Hot Topics” on the home page of Charity Navigator and then click on Relief for Puerto Rico and Areas Impacted by Hurricane Maria under “Hot Topics”. You will then find a list of the organizations helping with this disaster relief along with their rating (more stars the better). This is a wonderful way to help a cause directly. You can also donate to your charity of choice on Charity Navigator via their “giving basket”. Below are the links from their website for the top 5 “Hot Topics”. When you click on a link you will find listings for a myriad of charities you can donate to in order to help with the cause:

      When we are affected emotionally by a disaster, we can often feel helpless or useless to assist in relief efforts. We may not have the ability to go to volunteer physically in person. However, donating provides a way for us to help even if we can’t physically be there to volunteer. Science Daily tells us that we feel better when we donate to a cause we care about.[3] Their research showed that when we can directly donate to someone (rather than an organization) we feel even better. It is because we know who are money is helping specifically. It personalizes our helping efforts. Therefore, if you have the opportunity to help someone directly that is even better!

      7. Do a Reality Check

      Does the event truly affect you personally? If something that is happening 1000 miles away does not have a direct affect on you, any of your friend or family, then you probably need to take a reality check. There is so much bad stuff that happens in the world, if we focus on all the tragedies and disasters it is easy to get sad and even depressed. If you continually put your focus back on tragedies that happens elsewhere you take away from the joy in your own life. It also takes you away from your life activities.

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      In order to remain present in our own reality, sometimes we can need to minimize our thoughts pertaining to bad things that are happening elsewhere. It is not that you are putting your head in the sand, but rather filtering the message of what is happening elsewhere through your own reality. You can ask yourself the following questions to help get yourself back to your own reality:

      • Does the event happening affect me personally?
      • Does the event affect anyone close to me?
      • Is there anything that I can do to help those affected? How? What action will I take?
      • Is my focus on this event taking me away from my own family or life activities?
      • How can I minimize my exposure to news/media about the event so I can regain focus on the things I need to do in life?
      • Am I doing anything to help myself refocus on present life?
      • Am I doing something to boost my mood or attitude naturally (if you are feeling especially down about a disaster or situation happening in the world).
      • Am I focusing on the positive or the negative in the world?

      8. Look for the Positive Around You

      The world will always have terrible things happening. There is no such thing as a perfect world or perfect people, therefore natural and human disasters will continue. However, there is goodness in this world. There are good people and there are good things happening if you look for them. When you recognize the goodness and positive in the world, don’t ignore these things. Highlight the positive and acknowledge its existence. You will find yourself with a happier and more joyful spirit when you focus on the positive.

      Even Negative Circumstances Can Have Positive in Them

      When earthquakes happen people often die. This is a sad reality. However, you can also read about stories of heroism and people helping other people. Stories of people saving the lives of others following an earthquake. These stories of bravery and love toward fellow humans are what need to be lifted up and celebrated.

      Don’t celebrate the negativity. Instead find the glimmer of hope, heroism, or human decency in any situation and you will find yourself better coping with the reality of the bad things that do happen in today’s world.

      Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

      Reference

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      Dr. Magdalena Battles

      A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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      Last Updated on July 9, 2020

      How to Stop Being Passive and Start Getting What You Want

      How to Stop Being Passive and Start Getting What You Want

      Have you ever wondered what keeps you stuck in a state of passivity each day? You tend to know exactly what you need to, but you never have the energy, motivation, or willpower to do it. You know you need to learn how to stop being passive, but how do you do that?

      You are not alone. Being passive can leave you stuck in a bit of a rut that is difficult to escape from. This article will help to shine some light on your predicament by not just exploring the methods of how to stop being passive, but also the finer and very important details about what causes passive behavior, as well as an important distinction between positive and negative forms of being passive.

      Let’s dive straight in.

      What Causes Passive Behavior?

      Passive behavior is often the leading cause of people feeling stuck either at work or in their life. It occurs when your life situation is unhappy, but the only thing you “actively” do about it is complain. This, of course, doesn’t change anything. Passive behavior in this sense leaves people feeling stuck, hopeless, and miserable for the vast majority of their life.

      Passive behavior can emerge from a number of different sources, but there are three main ways that tend to be the most evident.

      Lack of Motivation

      Perhaps the most common and most obvious cause of passive behavior is the simple fact of being unmotivated. In the conventional sense, motivation gives rise to action. When you feel motivated, you go and do the things that you set out to do. When you don’t feel motivated, you don’t act.

      You might wake up one morning and be eager to get a nice, long, satisfying workout in, so you head to the gym. On another morning, or for a number of consecutive mornings, you might not feel motivated at all. As a result, you don’t get a workout done.

      Not being motivated and not always doing what you set out to do is fine. It is part of the natural ebb and flow of life and all of its contents. However, it is a myth that motivation needs to be preceded by action. The secret of successful and seemingly “always motivated” people is that they know that that is a myth. They also know that, quite often, it is usually action that leads to motivation[1].

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      Don’t believe me? You have probably experienced it many times yourself. You have forced yourself into your workout gear and then suddenly felt ready to go. You forced yourself to begin writing a report and then all of a sudden you’re in full flow. You forced yourself to meet friends just for one drink and ended up having the time of your life. Action, and then motivation.

      Motivation sometimes leads to action, but motivation only comes around every so often. However, motivation that follows action is always in your control. It may seem counterintuitive, but whenever you feel unmotivated and passive, just do something. Anything. And you will usually find that motivation and productivity follow closely behind.

      Lack of Goals

      Another common force behind passive behavior is the lack of any meaningful goals that you are striving towards. If your life consists of going through the motions, doing the same boring tasks every day, and eating the same sort of stuff, not only can it quickly begin to feel like Groundhog Day, but it can also begin to eat away at your life energy. Anyone with experience of these sorts of patterns will be able to directly relate.

      When your only goal is to make it through another day or make it to the weekend, that is a massive portion of your life that you are throwing away. Discovering and creating meaningful goals in your own life can radically change all of that.

      Ideally, because you spend large portions of your life at work, you will want to start by finding some meaningful goals within the work section of your life. You can strive towards creating something amazing and valuable for your customers or brainstorming ways that your business can become further integrated into the community. There are a number of ways to create meaningful goals at work. If you really cannot find any, then a goal might be to find a place or line of work where you can.

      Thankfully, though, life doesn’t exclusively consist of work. Meaningful goals can be spread out across all areas and interests of life. Maybe you set yourself a goal of setting up a local football team in your neighborhood. Maybe you volunteer for a charity that means a lot to you.

      Meaningful goals almost always involve other people, and this kindness, generosity, and good-will not only grows in others and your community, but it grows inside of you, too. The growth of these qualities in your life inevitably leads you out of passive behavior.

      Analysis Paralysis

      You might be shocked to realize that anything that involves analysis is one of the leading causes of passive behavior. Yet, it is this “analysis paralysis” that occurs to varying degrees in various people over time that is a big contributor to passivity and ultimately not getting what you want out of life[2].

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      Analysis paralysis is so common in the modern era due to the infinite sources of information that we have available to us via books, websites, podcasts, YouTube, etc. Because of this, a child who didn’t know any better would probably spend hours upon on hours watching YouTube videos, studying textbooks, and analyzing different expert’s opinions on how to ride a bike rather than actually just getting on one and learning through experience.

      It is common for you to slip into this same trap as the child in many other areas of life. You want all experts to agree on something before you take any action on it. You want to memorize the instructions front-to-back before you start on step one. You want a 100% guarantee that something will work from start to finish before you try it for yourself. Of course, that guarantee never arrives, and you remain in the same place.

      Forget all of that. Your brain is great for many things, but it is actually more likely to keep you stuck in the same place than it is to move you forward towards your goals. It will give you ten reasons why you shouldn’t for every one that you should. This is where listening to your intuition is important. There are countless examples of people living extraordinary lives and accomplishing truly wonderful things after they followed their intuition and ignored their “intellectual impulse” to have all of the details figured out first.

      Experience is not only the greatest teacher, it is the most direct route to experiencing, learning from and enjoying reality. Whatever goes on in your head is a projection. Whatever actually happens is reality. Spend less time reading about bikes (which is passive behaviour disguised as active behavior), and start getting on that bike for yourself.

      Is Being Passive a Bad Thing?

      As already highlighted briefly in the introduction, it is important to distinguish exactly what is meant by “passive” in this article. Here, we are talking about passivity and how it relates to things like boredom, frustration, unhappiness, feeling stuck, and all other connotations. The passivity that we are talking about is living a relatively unhappy existence and not really doing anything about it.

      Passive is not always a bad thing, though, and while the positive meanings of being passive aren’t the focus of this article, they are worth pointing out so that you don’t avoid passivity altogether.

      Passive can also relate to peace, contentment, and even things like creativity and inspiration. It is very rare for somebody who is in an active state all of the time to produce anything original and not completely burnout. Great individuals throughout history that put a lot of emphasis on stillness, reflection, and the “good” form of passivity include Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Mahatma Gandhi, and many, many others.

      There is an important distinction to be made between the passivity that is causing unhappiness and the passivity that is to be used in intervals to take your life to the next level. In this article though, we are focusing on the former.

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      How to Stop Being Passive

      Now that we have established some of the causes of being passive and the different faces of passivity, it is time to explore ways in which you can stop being passive (in the negative sense) and start to find effective methods of allowing more happiness into your life.

      1. Be Proactive, Not Reactive

      One of the most effective ways to stop being passive is to stop reacting to other people and situations as soon as they unfold. Your knee-jerk reaction is rarely the best course of action to take, and yet, it is a deeply-seated habit of all humans to respond angrily to anger or to see an unexpected situation as much more of an issue and struggle than it actually is.

      To stop being reactive, you can start being proactive. The best thing you can do in this sense, paradoxically, is to simply watch your reactivity as much as possible[3]. What feelings flare up and cloud your judgment in certain situations? How do you respond when things don’t go your way or to plan? The closer you can watch, and the more honest you can be, the less automatic your reactions become, and the more proactive and effective your responses to situations and people will be.

      You can also try to imagine different scenarios about how things might play out in the future. Thing about what might go right and what might go wrong so that you can anticipate and plan your action ahead of time. However, it can be difficult to predict the future, which is why I always emphasize starting with yourself.

      2. Consider the Future and Act in the Present

      Closely linked to the point above, while you can never accurately predict the future, it is always useful to give some consideration to how it might play out. What goals do you want to achieve? What circumstances do you want in your life? What obstacles might arise, and how can you either avoid them or be effective in dealing with them?

      Considering all of these questions and any others that are personal to you will give you an excellent basis for action.

      From this position, you can now focus all of your attention back into the present moment. The future is important to consider, but don’t live there because it doesn’t exist. All that exists is the present moment. You can only ever take care of the things right in front of you. Focus only on taking care of them, one thing at a time, and you will find that your entire future and life will fall perfectly into place.

      3. Address the Emotional Side of Passivity

      As we covered earlier when discussing lack of motivation and its direct influence on passivity, the reason that you are being passive is probably because you are invested in the story that you need to be motivated before you can take any action.

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      Being passive, unmotivated, uninspired, or any other great word that you want to throw an “un” in front of is often an emotional issue that needs addressing. For you, addressing the problem might simply mean taking action and letting the motivation follow. It might be attaching something emotionally rewarding (a treat of some kind) with action that you want to take that, for now, isn’t emotionally rewarding in itself.

      There is usually some sort of emotional gap that needs to be bridged before you can truly step out of being passive and step into the life that you want to live.

      Conclusion

      Hopefully, this article has managed to shine a bit more light on being passive, where it comes from, how it keeps your life stagnant, and what to do about it.

      As you already know, reading about riding a bike doesn’t teach you how to ride a bike. Even more sneakily, it is inaction disguised as action, because deep down you know you just need to do it.

      Going from passive to active living is exactly the same. You have read this article, you know what to do… now go do it!

      Your new life awaits you on the other side.

      More Tips on How to Stop Being Passive

      Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

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