Like many of you, I woke to the news of the tragic events in Florida. I spent some time in meditation, sending love and compassion to the families and friends of the victims.
How was it for you? Did you feel angry, sad, powerless? Is there a creeping sense of numbness that you don't want to admit is there? Don't feel guilty, that sense of detachment is your brain trying to help you cope.
Developing an inspired personal response to bad news is another Not Your Mama’s Midlife moment. We have the wisdom within us to respond as leaders; I’ve included a strategy in the link below to help you frame it, claim it, and share it to inspire and comfort those around you.
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The sad truth is, its becoming obvious that this is not the last time we will experience a mass shooting in the United States. I live in Mexico right now, a country with its own problems with drug related violence.
I’m not discounting yesterday’s tragedy with the rest of this post. What I’m doing is saying that bad news is nothing new and it will continue as our society makes its way through some very challenging times.
What IS new is the way we are assaulted with the information, and we need a framework for coping and not letting bad news literally “bring us down”. We need a plan for consciously processing bad news and setting a healthy example for the people in our lives that we influence.
Here is what is new versus what we grew up with, see if any of this sounds familiar, and think about the effect it has on you and your loved ones:
You are scrolling through your social media when you see news of a friend’s baby. The next post is photos of shooting victims that someone has shared.
Bad news is only a tap away on our cell phones as we check in with social media. The buffer between social chatter and terrible news is gone.
Today as I saw someone on Facebook refer to teachers as "liberal idiots" in a comment thread on a friend's post. I don't know that person, don't want to know him, but seeing that comment evoked a stress response and anger in me. For my body, the damage was done. See how this works? Can you imagine the impact on your health after a extended immersion in Facebook around a controversy or tragedy?
Dozens of comments from friends and strangers magnify the impact of news we see online. In the past, if you saw something disturbing on the nightly news, you had to pick up the phone to have a conversation about it outside of your family circle. Now you can be caught up instantly in an online conversation thread. Even if you don’t participate, just seeing some comments can raise your stress level by activating anger or fear.
Your daughter (or niece or sister or friend) is having a good day and goes online to message a friend about a fun event they are planning. She gets caught up in the posting of bios of the latest school shooting victims and 30 minutes later emerges from behind her phone feeling depressed and sad.
Events can be streamed on social media as they are happening. We can access a constant flow of updates from different sources. This is different from in the past when we had to wait for updates - on the radio, nightly news, or in the morning paper. Today you can spend your whole day following and “checking in” on a news story.
Photos in the paper and film on nightly news were censored in the past. Now anyone with a cell phone can post images and video. Images are extremely powerful, they instantly imprint a visual attached to an emotion, planting an echo of depression and despair that may linger for months if not years. Studies have shown that our emotional response to a memory or a photo from the past is the same as when we are in the moment.
If you or a young person in your life are “visual” - meaning you learn best from seeing and remembering images, you literally have to protect your mind’s eye and teach them how to as well. My son and I are extremely visual. I started very early with him on this practice, and he continues to guard his visual exposure even as a young man in his 20s. if you need some suggestions just let me know.
Your attention is precious. When we talk about “paying attention” it is true - you are spending a precious resource.
The direction and quality of your attention has a direct impact on your life and those you influence.
Creating more intention for where you spend your attention is the key.
Last year, after the tragedy in Charlottesville, I posted a framework for dealing with bad news.
You can see the post here.
I hope you find it helpful in tapping into your experience to create a resilient response to challenging events. The world needs more of the collective inner wisdom from midlife women in these times, wouldn't you agree?
What tips do you have to weather bad news? Did you learn anything from your grandmother around this topic? Please share below.