Coping with Senseless Tragedies

Tragic events continue to fill our newsfeeds. From the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs to the Walmart shooting in Virginia and several others in between, news like this can take a toll on our well-being.

How do we cope with such chaos, devastation, and destruction? There's a feeling of being totally overwhelmed, hopeless, and helpless that may leave you struggling to get a handle on how to re-gain a sense of control and predictability.

In her book, Shattered Assumptions, Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, Ph.D., points out that traumatic events invoke the feeling of being threatened. Trauma can produce feelings of anxiety, fear, depression, nightmares, nausea, memory loss, flashbacks, fatigue, and problem-solving difficulties. While these are normal responses to stressful situations, it’s important to learn how to cope and heal from these events.

If you or a colleague are having difficulty coping, here are some things you can do:

  • Listen to others and validate the feelings that you have.
  • Focus on the things you have control over.
  • Reflect on the fact that, at this moment, you are safe.
  • Prioritize your own self-care.
  • Seek support from friends, colleagues, or a professional if your distress begins interfering with your function, your work, or your relationships.

For psychological support, Vanderbilt University Medical Center faculty and staff can call Work/Life Connections-EAP at 615-936-1327 and make a confidential appointment to meet with one of our counselors.