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Anxiety After Tragedy

We live in anxious times.

In Steven Pinker's 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, the Harvard University psychologist argues humans are now living in the most peaceful era in the history of our species. Still, we are anxious.

And it's hard not to be. In February, it was the Parkland shooting. In April, the IHOP shooting and the harrowing Southwest airliner that broke apart as it was bound for Dallas. Last week, our neighbors in Santa Fe, Texas endured unspeakable tragedy because a "shy boy" was publicly embarrassed in an art class. Even people without anxiety disorders are searching for anxiety treatment to deal with the constant barrage of terrible news. (Oddly enough, PTSD is not uncommon among people who have not directly experienced tragedy. Even knowing someone who has can trigger empathetic PTSD in some sensitive individuals.)

Therapy can help everyone in this regard. Processing your thoughts and fears in a controlled manner with a qualified therapist can help you keep anxiety in check and prevent it from boiling out of control into a full blown phobia or disorder. It doesn't take a lot of sessions. If you aren't dealing with an anxiety disorder, maybe one or two sessions will be all it takes to get on top of your worries. In the meantime, when you're reading the news on your phone or watching the evening news at night, rehashing yet another tragedy, remember what our friend Mr. Rogers said. (Yes, that Mr. Rogers.) "Look for the helpers." It's what his mother told him to do when he heard scary news, and I swear it's a helpful tool for anxiety even now. Every time you see images of tragedy on your screen, you will most likely see even more helpers. Focus on the helpers.

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