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Tips For Being of Service in Times of Crisis
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, August 2012

Recently this nation has dealt with unthinkable events that force us to reflect on our own lives and what is meaningful to us. Although we may be beyond heartbroken, feeling hopeless and confused by the tragedies that befall innocent people, we must monitor ourselves and our families and friends when it comes to how we are reacting and how much news we watch in the media. Sometimes, we just must turn off the TV, or other news sources (even reliable ones that do not fill time with speculation and rumor), and turn our attention elsewhere.

It is natural and a healthy sign of our humanity that we feel connected to the victims and their families. We feel we honor and pay tribute to them (and their lost or wounded lives) as we listen to the reports by journalists and family members, asking why? How? Sometimes our faith and beliefs are tested.

For many of us, a major goal is to live lives of value and service and we feel driven to serve as a way to counter the ill and evil that occurred. Monitor your feelings and those of those close to you. It's normal to feel sadness, anxiety, fear, anger or a mix of those emotions, in the aftermath of a tragedy. Trying to understand senseless acts like shootings and covering up sexual molestations while processing the pain they caused, can be overwhelming. Don't hold it in. Talk to a friend, family member, teacher, clergy, or a counselor. Transform the anger into some sort of positive action. Talking about how we feel, reaching out as a way to support victims, can be helpful to our emotional, mental and spiritual well-being; as is reminding ourselves how grateful we are to be safe.

If you are left with feelings of loss, sadness, and helplessness when disaster strikes, commit yourself to some kind of service for others. Contributing is good for you and helps you to heal.

Below I offer a few tips to guide your actions:

Where to Begin? - Tragedies can make us feel as if we cannot make a difference so why try? Begin by moving. Tragedies make it difficult for us to move. Seriously! Moving your body by walking in nature, working out at a gym, doing errands, meeting with friends, can help the initial stages of coping with the enormity of what has transpired.

Connect in the World. - Let the crisis be a catalyst for getting out and giving even if unrelated to the current event. Start small with something that sparks your interest, keep it simple, and let your charitable nature evolve.

Start Simple. - Write a letter to someone in a nursing home, help in a local library, get involved with a cause or political campaign, be a baby rocker in the hospital, play the piano at a rehabilitation center, rake leaves or weed for a home-bound elderly person, cook a meal for your local shelter, help teach children to read. Get the idea?

You'll Reap the Rewards. - Sow seeds of contributing to your community. Make a difference; be a role model for kids. As you become involved you will improve your outlook as well as your physical, mental, and emotional health. You are touching others' lives, and they are touching yours.

Unglue yourself from the news. Don't obsess over situations beyond your control. Maintain your balance and contribute to repairing the world.

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