Tips Offered to Cope with Orlando Tragedy, Difficult News

The news from Orlando has been heart-wrenching. Many of us are deeply concerned about the tragedy, and want to show our support for Orlando and for the LGBTQ+ community. “Are there ways to be helpful?” and “how can I manage my stress?” are two very natural questions to ask. Below are some suggestions from the American Psychological Association for coping with difficult news and events.

A reminder about resilience. As concerned or discouraged as you may feel about what happened in Orlando, remember that the human spirit is built for survival and resilience.

Gather reliable information. We feel better when we have clear information than when we are left to hear reports of the news from others. Access your news from a reliable source or multiple sources and focus on facts rather than on opinions on the ground.

Limit your news intake. While it can be tempting to try and learn everything there is to know about the attack in Orlando, it’s also important to know when to stop. Limit your news intake to avoid feeling overwhelmed. For example, consider reading or watching updates for a half hour in the morning, then another half hour when you get home at night.

Be patient. This tip may be quite difficult. The first few days after a crisis are often marked by chaos. Communication can be difficult, clarity about the extent of loss involved may not be available and you may not know how to help. Try to be patient as facts gradually surface about the extent of damage involved and what is needed.

Try to connect. If you have loved ones in the Orlando area, you certainly can try to connect with them. Hearing that familiar voice or receiving a reassuring email, text or Facebook post can help you to feel better. However, be prepared for the possibility that they may not respond to you immediately. They may be trying to manage their own stress, gather information and obtain local support themselves.

Engage in self‐care. At times of stress, and particularly when we are concerned about others, it’s easy to neglect our own needs. Maintaining a consistent routine and keeping up with healthy practices like eating nutritious meals every day, getting enough sleep and taking time to exercise can help you cope with this crisis and be more effective with those you care about.

Accept practical support. Similarly, at times of crisis, it’s important to let others help you in any ways that they can. If you are too worried about friends, family or your community to focus on cooking a balanced meal, allow friends to cook for you, bring you groceries or walk your dog.

Accept emotional support. It’s not only the practical support we need at such a time – we also need to share our concerns, our frustrations and our hopes for the best with others. Now is the time to let your colleague, your neighbor or your best friend reach out to you. Know that they are unlikely to feel burdened at such a time – and they may feel honored to be able to help.

Pitch in. Whether you want to donate money or reach out in other ways – taking action will likely feel better than waiting.

Seek out professional support. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the attack in Orlando, having difficulty concentrating at work or getting enough sleep, consider the possibility of counseling. Counseling and Psychological Services is available for students and has consultation and referral resources for St. Thomas employees.

Note: This story was adapted from material from the Counseling and Psychological Services office at St. Thomas, the Scripps Research Institute and the American Psychological Association.