Dr. Jeff J. Rocker, Renowned Therapist, locker management.
If you’ve ever dropped your kids off at school and wondered, “Is this the last time we’ll see each other?”, you already know what research confirms. Anxiety about mass shootings plagues American parents. According to a Pew Research survey, more than two-thirds of his parents in the U.S. report being worried about a shooting at their child’s school. As of this writing, he has nearly 50 mass shootings so far in 2023, so it’s no wonder he’s worried about this tragic possibility.
As a parent, it’s up to you to keep your children safe. However, in an increasingly dangerous world, it is normal to experience a range of negative feelings about child safety, including anxiety, worry and intrusive thoughts that can affect performance at work.
Anxiety about mass shootings comes up almost daily in discussions with working parents. If you’re sitting at your desk worrying about how safe your kids will be at school, here are some tips to calm your anxious mind and help you focus on your work.
You May Be Experiencing Vicarious Trauma
The onslaught of mass shootings in the United States has led to a nationwide phenomenon of secondary trauma, also known as vicarious trauma. When you look at someone else’s trauma, especially consistently and over a long period of time, your brain can make it feel like it’s your own. Seeing my family reflected in the faces of news stories is understandably terrifying.
Anxiety about getting calls that parents don’t want to receive is a problem I run into. Parents of all ages, races and backgrounds experience secondary trauma from mass shooting news. Symptoms of secondary trauma seen in working parent patients often include anxiety, confusion of thoughts, and difficulty concentrating.
Calm your anxious heart today
When thoughts and worries run wild at work, it becomes difficult to focus on work. These are the things I recommend my clients to help calm “what if” thoughts and stay productive.
- Focus on the present. Rational thinking can go out the window when we start thinking about the future. Because the future exists only in our imagination. If you’re having trouble gathering thoughts at work, focus on the present. Immerse yourself in your work day, chat with your colleagues, or take a 5-minute break and do one of the steps below.
- Maintain communication with your child. Every child has a mobile phone these days. Check with your kids throughout the day when they are at school and you are at work. They may give you a few eyes, which will help calm your nerves so you can get back to your professional work.
- Practice deep breathing. It may sound silly, but there’s science behind how deep breathing triggers physiological changes in your body that help you relax. If you have moments of anxiety at the office, try one of the deep breathing exercises listed here. You can also breathe air.
- meditate Did you know that meditation can be as effective in fighting anxiety as medication? You can meditate anytime, anywhere, even at your desk. Meditation is about relaxing the mind and clearing out thoughts. If you need more tips on how to meditate, check out what the Mayo Clinic has to say about meditation here.
Calm down and get active
Alleviating fears about mass shootings is a good first step. Why not go one step further? Nothing beats anxiety like action. When I work with clients who can’t stop worrying about their children’s safety at school and are having a hard time at work, I always encourage them to take action. Working to keep your children safe can help you feel empowered rather than hopeless, and it can also move the needle toward real positive change.
- Learn what to do in active shooting situations. Feeling prepared is a great way to reduce anxiety in any situation. FEMA recommends what to do if you encounter a shooting scenario at work, in public places, or even at your child’s school.
- Teach your children what to do when there is an active shooter. No parent wants to have this conversation, but it has become necessary in today’s world. , offers tips on how to spot danger before it happens.
- Suggest a better procedure. Better security, processes, and policies go a long way toward keeping our community safe. Talk to your school district and local leaders to ensure safety measures are in place to prevent and respond to mass shootings. Discuss these measures with your employer as well. Unfortunately, workplace shootings are becoming more common. If you want to keep your child safe, you must keep yourself safe too.
you can only control yourself
No matter how much we want to create a safer world for ourselves and our children, we have limited control over external circumstances. However, we do have the ability to influence our thoughts and actions. The next time you find yourself ruminating about the threat of a workplace shooting, use these steps to put your mind at rest. And take action to realize the dream of a safer world.
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