Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

      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.

      Advertising

      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.

      Advertising

      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

      More by this author

      Dr. Magdalena Battles

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

      The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids single parenting How to Manage Single Parenting Positively The Effects of Divorce on Children No Parents Should Ignore 11 Signs You’re an Overprotective Parent (And What to Do About It) How to Cope with Empty Nest Syndrome and Be Happy Again

      Trending in Mental Strength

      1 How to Change Your Life at 60 Years Old and Feel Proud of Yourself 2 What Is Your Destiny in Life? How to Mindfully Achieve Your Purpose 3 How to Stop Being a Perfectionist (Step-by-Step Guide) 4 5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful 5 Feeling Like a Failure? 10 Simple Things to Help You Rise Again

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on September 29, 2020

      How to Change Your Life at 60 Years Old and Feel Proud of Yourself

      How to Change Your Life at 60 Years Old and Feel Proud of Yourself

      Ever heard the phrase 60 is the new 40? While that maybe an exaggeration, it’s meant to highlight the very real phenomenon of our ever increasing health and longer lifespans.

      For the average person who turned 60 in 1970, they could expect to retire at age 64 and live to age 70.8. For someone who turned 60 in 2010, they can very easily work throughout their entire 60’s and expect to live to at least 78.7 years old.[1] With the advances in modern medicine, lower rates of smoking and generally healthier lifestyles, our active and productive years can expand well into our 70’s and beyond.

      How we choose to use this “extra” time will be determined by our current situation and our priorities for the future.

      For some, their 60’s are a time to kick back and relax. They have worked for 30+ years, lived below their means and diligently saved money for retirement. They may also have sold a successful business, or been able to retire from a (increasing scarce) job that had a good pension.

      For others, the prospect of retirement isn’t even a thought. Whether it’s a case of financial reality or just the psychological need to be productive, a continuing presence in the workforce is a reality for more and more of the 60+ crowd.

      So how to change your life at 60 years old and feel proud of yourself?

      Changing Priorities in Your 60’s

      For most us us, our priorities change as we get older. Living for parties and excitement, what use to be called “working for the weekend” slowly gives way to working on the weekend and eventually working towards retirement.

      By the time we hit our 60’s, a lot of us are looking to slow down. Health issues, either our own, our spouses or parents often come into play at this time in our life. This combined with having (hopefully) grown children, a paid or nearly paid off home and bit of savings in the bank. This means that you can start to trade long hours and stressful work situations for a more flexible schedule and more leisure time.

      The key to making a successful life change in your 60’s is being prepared for both the mental and financial challenges you are likely to face.

      Understanding the Psychological Challenges

      Any major life change comes with its own set of psychological challenges. When that change takes place in our 60’s. there are some very specific psychological issues to be aware of.

      Some of these issues are apparent and we easily recognize them. For instance, we’ve all heard someone say “When I retire, I don’t know what I’ll do with all that time on my hands”. While other challenges are more subtle and harder to quantify such as depression and anxiety.

      While not everyone suffers with all or even most of them, here are come common psychological issues to be aware of:

      Advertising

      Anxiety

      Even positive life changes can cause our anxiety levels to increase. Humans are creatures of habit. We develop routines that make our lives predictable and we rely on that predictability to give us comfort.

      Now imagine that after 30+ years of having a relatively stable and routine job, you suddenly retire, get sick, or find yourself out of a job. The routine that you have relied upon to give you a sense of normalcy is suddenly gone.

      In humans, the natural response to any major life changing event is an increase in anxiety. Symptoms and severity will vary from person to person, but you should always expect your anxiety levels to increase with any major life change in your 60’s.

      What can you do about it?

      Establish a new routine to replace the old one, this is the reason we have hobbies!

      Gardening, golf, tennis, volunteer work all can help to get you back into a comfortable routine.

      Helpful hint: Pick a hobby that has both a physical and social component to it. Both physical and social activity will help to lower anxiety levels.

      Depression

      Even the most happy-go-lucky of us become susceptible to depression during a major life event. In fact, when retiring, changing careers or even striking out on a new business adventure, both anxiety and depression can go hand in hand.

      You may find yourself with a lot of excess “nervous” energy that you would have used at your job to meet deadlines and get things done. On the other hand, you may find that you have no energy and all and it’s tough to even get out of bed.

      While everyone experiences everyday or “normal” bouts of anxiety and depression, it becomes a problem when these episodes become severe, or last longer that a few days.

      At that point, it turns into a serious life threatening situation. It’s recommended that a person seeks medical help if they experience any of the following symptoms:

      • Feelings of extreme sadness, emptiness or hopelessness that seem to envelop you.
      • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, especially over small or normally insignificant matters.
      • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that use to give pleasure, such as sex, hobbies or sports.
      • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much).
      • General tiredness or malaise, so that even small tasks seem to take a lot of effort.
      • Unusual changes in appetite, rapid weight loss or gain.
      • Slowed or delayed patterns of thinking, speaking or body movements.
      • Constant feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
      • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things (more than normal).
      • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicide or suicide attempts.
      • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain, headaches or stomach ailments.

      Dealing with the Financial Challenges

      There are very unique financial considerations to take into account when making a major life change in your 60’s.

      Depending on your situation, you may find yourself having to come to terms with a completely new relationship with money. Whether retiring, changing careers or starting your own business, chances are your income is going to take a hit.

      Advertising

      Part of making a successful life change at 60 is anticipating and planning for these events so you don’t get blindsided. The following is a list of general recommendations that everyone in their 60’s should consider.

      1. Get aggressive about paying off debt

      Especially credit card debt, it’s almost always at a high interest rate and, without any tax advantages, it just makes all of your purchases more expensive.

      So if you are still carrying balances on your credit cards every month, it’s time to get those paid off.

      Start with the credit card that has the highest interest rate, and then work your way to the card with the lowest rate.

      These tips on How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years can help you too.

      2. Pay off the house

      If your home isn’t paid off already, after paying off credit card debt, this should be the next goal. It’s much less stressful going into a situation where you’ll have less income if your house is paid off.

      You’ll not only reduce your expenses by not having a mortgage payment, but you’ll also have the piece of mind that comes with knowing that your home isn’t going anywhere.

      3. Make a budget

      No matter what kind of change you make in your 60’s — career change, retirement or becoming a entrepreneur, both your income and expenses are going to change.

      Things like the cost of commuting, wardrobe expenses, credit card and mortgage payments are likely to be reduced. You’ll still need to budget for things like home repair and maintenance (how’s the AC unit or the roof?). Car maintenance and even replacement.

      And don’t forget about leisure and entertainment expenses, after all, we all need to enjoy life. As a general rule, 30% of your budget should be allocated to leisure and entertainment expenses.

      4. Examine and re-adjust your investment portfolio

      This is where a good financial planner comes in. While your earlier investment goals were designed to maximize the amount of money in your retirement account. At this point in your journey, the goals have changed to providing you an income for the rest of your life.

      You also want to protect the principal from unnecessary risks so it lasts as long as you do. A good financial adviser can help you make the change from a growth orientated investment strategy into more dividend or income producing assets for your golden years.

      Advertising

      5. Consider a change of address

      Depending on where you live, moving to a new state might make financial sense. High tax states not only can zap your resources faster than states with lower taxes, but can often times make you get much more “bang for your buck” by moving.

      Things like housing, personal property, sales and gas taxes can all add up to a significant savings in a low tax state. Places like Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Florida all have an influx of people migrating from the higher tax states on each coast.

      6. Reexamine your insurance needs

      A good experienced insurance broker is your best asset when tackling this task.

      Do you still need that disability policy to cover your mortgage in case you get hurt? Or could you take that money and buy an annuity that would give you some extra income? What about the cash value of your life insurance?

      Walt Disney used the cash value of his life insurance to start Disneyland.[2] Even your car insurance needs to be reevaluated. You can often times save money through good driving and senior discounts as well as eliminating your commuter miles.

      Talk to your insurance broker to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of insurance.

      7. Consider becoming an entrepreneur

      Roughly 1/3 of people in their 60’s decide to strike out on their own and be their own boss. And why not?

      Children are (usually) out of the house, household and credit card debt is likely to be low, most people have some savings by this point in their life and often times they are at the pinnacle of their career.

      With the prospect of any further career advancement unlikely, many see this as the perfect time to start their own business.

      Now ideally, if you’re going to start a business, you should start 2-3 years before you plan on retiring. This will give you a chance to become established, build your network and income stream all while maintaining the benefits of your current job.

      But even if you didn’t start early, you can still become a successful entrepreneur, in fact, studies show that older entrepreneurs are generally more successful than their younger counterparts.

      So don’t think that your too old to start something, many successful entrepreneurs started businesses later in life. People like Ray Kroc (McDonald’s), Harland “Colonel” Sanders (Kentucky Fried Chicken), Walt Disney, Charles Flint (IBM) and many more. The only person telling you that you can’t do it is you.

      Advertising

      It’s never too late to start your business! Here’s the proof.

      8. Consider becoming a consultant

      If you don’t feel the bite of the entrepreneur bug, but still want to stay connected and earn money. How about becoming a consultant?

      After 30+ years working in an industry, you’ve built up a world of knowledge, contacts and experience. All of which is useful and has value.

      Doing consulting work allows you to have control over your schedule and, once you are established, it can provide a significant source of income.

      9. Get a part-time job for more than just the money

      Both entrepreneurship and consulting can take a lot of time and effort, but picking the right part time job can cut your expenses and give you a little spending money.

      What are your hobbies? Do you like to golf? Become a marshal on your local golf course. Most courses will pay you a modest hourly rate and let you golf for free.

      How about gardening? A part time job at your local nursery will not only provide you with pocket money, but also a discount on plants.

      Whatever your hobbies or interests, there’s a part time job out there for you.

      Conclusion

      Whether you are changing careers, starting a business or retiring, big life changes are by their very nature stressful.

      The great thing about being older is that we have the advantage of experience. We’ve been though other life changing events and can anticipate some of the issues we’ll face.

      Becoming well informed, getting prepared and making a plan will insure that you can change your life at 60 years old and feel proud of yourself.

      Featured photo credit: Ian Schneider via unsplash.com

      Reference

      Read Next