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Last Updated on January 31, 2018

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

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      Dr. Magdalena Battles

      Doctor of Psychology

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      Last Updated on September 17, 2018

      What Is Your Destiny in Life? How to Mindfully Achieve Your Purpose

      What Is Your Destiny in Life? How to Mindfully Achieve Your Purpose

      At several points in our lives, we tend to ask– if not question, what is our destiny in life and the truth about why we’re living.

      On days of frustration, it’s more of questioning why we haven’t figured it all out. On days of reflection, it’s more of what serves us. On the good days, you feel that purpose in your bones. And on the bad days, you might feel no purpose at all.

      Here’s the deal:

      How do you define purpose?

      Webster’s dictionary defines it as “something set up as an object or end to be.”

      “End to be” almost sounds too predestined – that our “purpose” is out of our control because at the end of the day we’ll truly end up at our truest destination, and life is just trying to figure out what that is along the way.

      What if our life’s purpose is to be present here on earth because your life’s mission is determining what serves us and what we’re willing to contribute?

      What is your destiny in life?

      I once asked a friend what his fear in life was. He feared hurting people, and he also fears never amounting to be of significance to anyone in his relationships – friendships, romantically, and as a colleague. It got to the point where he stayed in unfulfilled romantic relationships because breaking up would mean it would make him the antagonist in her story.

      They say we meet 80,000 people in our lifetime and that is if we live to be 78-years-old.[1] From the moment you were born to this very exact moment you are now reading this article, we are an accumulation of upbringings, experiences, moments, tragedies, and the influences of the people we have met.

      The death of someone impacts us deeply because of the connection we had shared with that person. We cheer for our home team during the World Cup because of the pride we have for our country. We attend weddings and anniversaries to celebrate love and it is the the love we have for our friends and the love for our partner.

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      Life’s purpose is more about the connection we make with others and having that chance to live 80,000 different lives. It’s a chance to deepen our self-awareness, and truly understand what resonates with our inner self.

      I then looked at my friend and asked him this:

      “Out of the 80,000 people you have met and will continue to meet, do you truly believe you won’t inspire anyone at all? Out of the 80,000 that will come in and out of your life, could you say you won’t hurt any of them or be hurt by any of them?”

      It’s literally impossible.

      Sometimes we meet people who inspire us greatly, who shift our lives and in return, we shift theirs; they are a makeup of their own 80,000 people. While other times, we meet people who have impacted us negatively; they too are a makeup of their own 80,000 people.

      The bottom line is:

      Our life’s purpose is to connect with others and by doing so, our life’s mission becomes clearer.

      The truth about our mission

      Is our mission always clear? Probably not.

      Your life’s mission is probably not the same as it was when you were 20, or even the same as it was a year ago. It could have changed from “wanting to become a nurse so I can help the elderly” to “wanting to open a 24-hour daycare center to help parents who work graveyard shifts.”

      The commonality here is the want to help people. The how and what may change, but the why is what remains.

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      As our lives continue to go through waves, it’s only natural for our values to change along with those waves.

      The question to ask here is:

      In midst of the chaos and whirlwind of events  we call life, what continues to stand still after all these years?

      Our life’s mission comes down to that constant voice that repeatedly sends signals and stirs that pot of emotions, excitement, and ambition within us. Although it may seem unclear, it’s the one thing that never changes:

      • Have you always loved the art of storytelling because it connects strangers?
      • Have you always loved making handcrafted jewelry because it drives your creativity?
      • Have you always been drawn to cooking because it keeps you in control of what you are putting in your body?

      How to achieve your destiny

      Think of your life mission as an anchor. Now it’s time to look into how to harness that anchor and conquer your destiny.

      1. Decide – Your mind is the captain

      Imagine your mind as the captain of the ship and the anchor is your life’s mission. Your ship is currently sitting at a standstill point in life with four possible directions: north, east, west, and south. As easy as it is to set sail, it’s harder when the destination may seem unclear.

      The first step is always deciding.

      Sometimes we stay at this standstill moment because we’re afraid of sailing towards the wrong direction.

      Maybe we’ve done it one too many times in the past, and that the fear has since stayed. So, we end up being content with sitting comfortably in our ship because there are no waves, no currents, just calmness that surrounds us. But there is no adventure, and after a while the calm waves seem almost lonesome.

      You will never fail because look at your ship at this exact moment — It’s out on the waters, it’s the result of all the small and large decisions you’ve been making throughout life. You have sailed your ship out to sea before, and you can do it again. Don’t over think it and be accountable for youself to decide.

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      Regardless of the direction you do decide to take, you will still continue to meet a handful of people to add into your 80,000; with that, a chance to gain additional experiences, knowledge, inspirations, and lessons to redefine our life’s mission. The thing is, you have to sail somewhere.

      The moment you sail and live your life’s purpose by meeting people on this journey, you will meet people who will challenge your life’s mission. Regardless of whatever tangible action you decide to take, you must learn to trust our anchor.

      As long as you have your anchor, it will hold you and remind you of what truly moves you. It’s that one constant thing to guide you when you are at your next standstill.

      2. Do – Your body is the ship

      As your mind continues to steer, your body is the ship that sails; it gets you to the destination your mind is trying to go. To actively achieve your life’s mission, you must do the following step.

      The second step is to do and keep doing.

      Whatever it may be, just do. If it’s a book you’ve been wanting to write for years, it’s time to write. If it’s a 5k run you’ve been putting aside because work is too hectic, it’s time to train. If it’s to finally start that business, but finances are always tight, it’s time to try.

      Complacency isn’t a fun place – neither is an uncrossed list of things you’ve been wanting to do that probably all ties in with your mission.

      Once you start, everything will fall into place. Trust the anchor to guide you and give you that nudge when something isn’t working anymore. As we continue to interact with others and grow physically and mindfully, our ideas and projects – sometimes careers and ideal relationships can change with them.

      Listen to that anchor, because that anchor is always connected to your life’s mission.

      3. Reflect – Looking beyond the horizon

      Now it’s time to take charge of your destiny. There’s power to making a decision but there’s greater power in putting those decisions into action. Afterwards, it’s time to reflect.

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      Your mind is the captain – calling all the shots, making the choices and deciding which waves to ride over and which waves to steer clear from. It’s also the one thing that propels you forward, and on some days, it can be your best companion, while on other days, your worst enemy.

      Your body is the ship – it puts all those decisions into action. It takes you to those job interviews, it types out the words onto a keyboard and into a working manuscript, it also gets your heart pumping during workouts. Your body is the action taker.

      Your anchor is your spirit – your anchor is your current reminder. It will often ask you if things continue to resonate with you. It’s your gut, it’s your instinct, and it’s the one thing that stays true to you. Listening to it will give you a clearer understanding of your mission, but only if you live your life’s purpose.

      Meet people, ask them questions, and see what stirs the anchor within you. The answer will always lie there, and the anchor is what leads you to your destiny.

      Final thoughts

      As humans, our one life has been a string of moments created, enjoyed, and experienced with others and that alone makes the world turn.

      Our purpose is to be present on this earth, but our mission is to tap into our calling and learn how to give back. It’s listening to that anchor that has stayed with us our whole lives.

      By mindfully becoming aware and actively doing the things that call to us, we begin to steer our ship towards passionate projects, people, and places that stay true to our inner compass.

      Featured photo credit: S A R A H ✗ S H A R P via unsplash.com

      Reference

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