Optimism about Gabrielle Giffords’ and America’s Recovery

The recent news has been good concerning the ongoing recovery of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot point blank in the head on Saturday. Reports are that she is breathing on her own as her husband holds her hand. The outpouring of prayers and good thoughts coming from Americans around the country will help to sustain her and her family through the long and arduous recovery that she faces. Support also goes out to the families of the six murder victims, whose funerals begin tomorrow as 9 year old Christina Taylor Green is laid to rest.

How will the country recover from this tragedy? Will Americans come together to face this heartbreak as one nation or will we be driven apart by finger-pointing and fractious debate? The palpable distress created by the horrific shootings have added to the already high levels of stress identified by the recent national survey conducted by the American Psychological Association.

We hope that such unfathomable horror will never personally touch you or your loved ones, but here are some techniques to use when you are coping with other stresses in your life:

Focus on what you can control and what you can accomplish, not what you can’t. Close to one-half of those surveyed by APA said they experienced irritability and anger as a symptom of stress. While you often can’t influence circumstances, you can recognize your emotions and control how you handle them. To move away from frustration, let go of negative thoughts and unrealistic expectations. Clearly define your goals or aspirations and keep focused on them. Make something positive come out of a negative situation.

Draw on your strengths. Survey respondents readily admitted their lack of willpower in creating a healthier lifestyle but 70% believe they can improve and institute the changes they have identified. Use the personal strengths you have relied on in the past as well as those you have developed more recently. Brainstorm new ways to apply the abilities you have in a novel way as you generate new opportunities for yourself.

Be patient with yourself. Know that you will recover balance and serenity at your own pace. As long as you keep moving forward, you will eventually reach your destination. Like one-half of survey respondents, you may find that listening to music, exercising, spending time with family or friends and reading are comforting ways to manage your stress.

Talk about your thoughts and feelings with family and friends and reach out to others in your support system. Be open to asking for help and validation of your emotions. You may want to consult a professional counselor for a non-judgmental ear and help in sorting out your concerns. Start a journal to aid in the process of coping with your anxiety.

You’ll likely find that your personal recovery, both physical and emotional, will take time. Support is valuable as you begin the process of rebuilding body and spirit and restoring hope as you cope with your own feelings of stress and anxiety. And the American Psychological Association has more tips for coping with stress in the aftermath of traumas such as these horrific shootings.

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