Everyday we are confronted with more violence in the world: terrorism, shootings, war, bombings and a seemingly inexhaustible list of other fear-inducing affronts to society and our own local neighborhoods.
We watch it on T.V. We read about it in our Facebook feed. We hear about it on the radio when our music is interrupted by a news alert. Someone, somewhere has committed some heinous act and it triggers our internal fight/flight mechanism for self-preservation. Adrenaline rushes in and suddenly we find ourselves fearful for our lives.
Continue this bombardment of “bad” news hitting us day in and day out, and all at once we start to have a general low-level anxiety of what may happen to us when we step outside our front door. An anxiety which, for some, can turn into paralyzing fear.
But there is hope. Here are some steps you can take to find more peace in your life.
1. Minimize Exposure to Media Coverage
Unplug. Yes, unplug. Step away from the TV and the computer, tablet or smartphone. At the very least, do not immerse yourself in daily media coverage for hours on end using these devices.
Remember, fear-based news reporting preys on our anxieties and then attempts to hold us hostage all in an effort for the news industry to generate more money. News casting is no longer just about getting the facts right, but about acquiring good ratings so that advertisers spend more and profits soar. These tactics promote a culture of fear.
Research has shown that fear-based media induces children and adults to feel that their communities are unsafe, that crime rates are rising, and that the world is a dangerous place. As a result of such reporting, most children and adults vastly overestimate their odds of becoming a victim of a violent crime, making them more fearful of the world at large.
So limit your exposure to media. Try checking in only once or twice daily for a brief period of time on local and global happenings. Switching to print media (newspaper, magazine, etc.) can greatly reduce your exposure to emotionally laden, fear-producing visual material.
And stay away from news postings on Facebook. If you have been following our blog, you already know about the stress and anxiety that Facebook can cause. Following news on Facebook not only confronts you with the fear-inducing events in video format, but also hits you with the anxiety and fear other people are displaying in the comments.
2. Maintain the Right Perspective
There has always been risk in the world. However, the leading causes of death in the United States are not violent crimes, terroristic events, or random shootings. The leading causes are heart disease and diabetes.
You have only a one in 20,000,000 (20 Million) chance of dying from terrorism. According to a CNN study, only 3,380 Americans died in terrorist attacks between 2001 and 2013. Nine times that many people died in car accidents in 2013 alone.
If you find yourself becoming fearful of the violence and chaos in the world, just visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website for statics on fatalities from disease and accidents. The goal is not to focus you on death, but to put into perspective the greater risks of dying from disease and accidents than from the chaos in the world.
3. Continue Living Your Normal Life
Terror attacks and hate crimes create fear and uncertainty about the future. Their goal is to have you preoccupied with things you cannot control so that you are crippled with fear and cannot live your normal life.
The first thing you should do is continue your routine. Maintaining a sense of balance and order in your life will help prevent fear of chaotic events from increasing its foothold within you.
Next, engage in something that brings you joy. Celebrate life with friends, walk in a park, enjoy a social gathering at a cafe or restaurant, or take in a show or concert. Get out into the world and live life. It will challenge your fearful thoughts and focus you instead on the truth of the world around you.
4. Engage in Prayer
Recent studies have found that having people pray together with a close friend increased feelings of unity and trust. Praying can be an experience that brings people closer together, which directly counteracts the goals of terrorism, hate crimes and other violent crimes, seeking to tear relationships apart.
Research has also found that praying for others helps reduce stress. Focusing on the victims of the violence and praying for the well-being of their loved ones can actually make you feel better and more at peace.