The shootings in Connecticut have made us all feel like we’ve been punched in the stomach. So many issues come up at times like these –- Why are we going through this again? Why in an idyllic little town? Will the violence ever end? How can we help the mentally ill?
We have these and many other questions, but the one we absolutely have to answer is How can we take care of ourselves when faced with a situation that is this horrendous?
The Zen Buddhists have an answer to this question. They say, “Chop wood, carry water.” In other words, when dealing wit with something as unimaginable as the Newtown shootings, what we need to do after our initial feelings of shock and grief is to carry on as normally as we can with our daily tasks. That doesn’t mean ignoring our emotions. Indeed, we need to face our emotions and deal with them. but we also need to return to our routines as soon as possible.
This is especially important for our children. They need to feel that everything is is okay, that they are safe. And the best way to help them feel this way is to let them get back to what they are used to.
There are some things that we can do for ourselves and our children, however, that will help us through this time of grief. I have gleaned the following ideas from my blog posts titled Managing Your Fear. Here are some ideas that I hope will be helpful to you:
1. Breathing – Check your breathing. Is it shallow and rapid? If so, practice taking long, slow breaths, holding them in and releasing them slowly. do this for five minutes at a time. Almost nothing is more calming.
2. Visualization — If you are feeling stressed and anxious, take a few minutes to sit down and visualize a peaceful place – maybe a meadow of wildflowers. then picture yourself there, walking through the flowers, the warm sunshine on your face. Create any visualization that calms you.
3. Mantra — Repeat a comforting phrase over and over to yourself until you believe it, a phrase like, “We are comforting one another and things are getting better.”
4. Talk to Your Children, Friends, and Family – Don’t isolate yourself when you’re feeling like there are no answers. Being with others will give you strength and peace.
5. Laugh – Even if you don’t feel like it at first, watch a funny movie or T.V. show. Read a funny book. Doing this could be a comfort to your children, as well.
6. Go For a Walk – This is the perfect time for the family to get out in nature together. Nothing heals pain and anxiety like being in the natural world. Also, exercise releases those endorphins that make you feel better.
7. Meditation – If you practice meditation, make sure to do it now. If you don’t meditate, find 10-15 minutes each day to just sit quietly. This is a great time to practice your slow breathing.
8. Music — Listen to whatever music is soothing to you. There are so many beautiful Christmas carols to play at this time of year. But if that isn’t your cup of tea, listen to what calms you. This is no time for Black Sabbath!
9. Massage – We aren’t all fortunate enough to be able to go out and get a massage, but, if you are, this is the perfect time to do it. For the rest of us, ask a loved one to rub your neck and do the same tor them. You’ll both feel so much better!
Finally, we hope our government will at last do something about gun violence and helping the mentally ill, but, in the meantime, we have to take care of ourselves. May the new year be a better one!