News of the terrorist attack in Manchester, England on Monday evening has been almost unthinkable. A suicide bomber stood outside of a crowded exit at an Ariana Grande concert — a venue filled with predominantly teenage girls — and detonated a bomb that killed 22 concertgoers and injured over 50 others. For many, this is yet another reminder that no public space is safe, and that terror can strike in even the most unlikely places. But you shouldn't let fear keep you from living your life; in fact, there are many ways to feel safe in public spaces after the Manchester attack, so that you can continue to find joy and positivity in everyday activities without overwhelming yourself about what might happen.
The terror attack in Manchester is just the latest in a heartbreaking string of incidents of innocent civilians losing their lives while simply living them. The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the 2015 Paris attacks, and the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting may make you feel like you should be fearful and suspicious anytime you're in public. Maybe they make you feel like you shouldn't go out in public at all. But the most powerful response that we can have to terror is moving forward.
If you're still having trouble doing this after the devastating news of the Manchester bombing, here are a few ways you can manage your anxiety in public places so you can continue living your life with joy. It's the most resilient thing you can do.
1Stick With A Buddy
Having a friend nearby for moral and emotional support can make a world of difference. One of the most effective ways to process your emotions is to talk about them, and if you begin to feel nervous on your public outing, don't hesitate to express those fears. Voicing your concerns to a trusted friend can make you feel less alone and more comfortable.
2Make A Meet-Up Plan
Agree on a time and place to meet up with friends in case you get separated at a large public event. This isn't only helpful in allowing you to find your friends in the event of the unexpected; more importantly, this can help you maintain a feeling of control, which is immesely helpful given that a driving factor in fear of terrorism is the anxiety related to uncertainty and loss of control.
3Maintain A Normal Routine
After news of a new terror attack, it can be tempting to not only avoid public places, but to steer clear of everyday tasks that may all of a sudden seem frightening. But one way to avoid this anxiety is to continue your everyday routine, no matter how difficult this may be at first. Doing so will help you to view these activities as exactly what they are: necessary, everyday duties — not scary, risky activities.
4Take A Deep Breath
#Manchester Very important we promote calm not anger. Terrorism thrives off fear. Take a deep breath. Don't be drawn in. It's what they want— E. E. Fry (@sugarcanebook) May 23, 2017
If you do find yourself feeling anxious in a public space and you need to calm yourself down, deep breathing exercises can be incredibly calming. Holding deep inhales and exhales for three-to-five seconds each can significantly slow your heart rate and reduce your stress levels. You can even plug in your headphones and use an app that provides deep breathing exercise techniques, or recite a mantra. I personally like to recite my favorite poem while taking deep breaths when I'm feeling anxious. Find the technique that works best for you so you can stay centered when you need to cool down.
5Put Things In Perspective
When news of terror attacks dominate the media, it's easy to feel like terror attacks happen everyday, everywhere. But this just isn't true. In fact, according to the Washington Post, you're more likely to be fatally crushed by furniture than killed in a terror attack. While many high-profile concert venues and other public places have been the site of unimaginable violence, just think of all of the other concerts, dances, festivals, and marathons that happen each day without incident. Don't let tragic news keep you from pursuing activities you enjoy.
6Develop Healthy Coping Techniques
It's natural for your emotions to get the best of you, whether out in public or just thinking about the daily tasks that lie ahead. You may feel sad thinking of all the innocent victims who have lost their lives in previous terror attcks, or you may feel fearful that you may one day face one yourself. It's important to know how to deal with these emotions in a healthy and productive way, and the great thing about this is that it looks different for everyone. Find a coping technique that works best for you when you're feeling anxious. It could be jogging, cooking, journaling, or even just curling up with your favorite Netflix show.
7Don't Be Afraid To Process Your Emotions
If the report of the tragedy in Manchester are overwhelming for you tonight and you need to talk, text Hello to @CrisisTextLine at 741-741 💙— Cole Ledford (@ColeLedford11) May 23, 2017
If you feel afraid, anxious, nervous, or depressed, it is perfectly OK for you to feel comfortable discussing those emotions with trusted friends or family members. You may be embarassed about the way you're feeling, but your response is only natural given the incidents of terror that are in news pages daily. Keeping your thoughts bottled up inside will make it harder for you to process them, so don't be afraid to seek out advice, guidance, support, and a listening ear to help you move forward.
8Know When It's Time to Find Help
just left therapy & want to say that things like Manchester attacks can affect us emotionally even if we don't acknowledge it...— hayley from Paramore (@yelyahwilliams) May 23, 2017
If you find that you continue to have difficulty engaging in everyday activities, and your fear of potential terror attacks is keeping you from living your life in a meaningful, enjoyable way, then it may help if you seek professional counseling or therapy. Speaking with a professional who will listen to you attentively and help you develop tips for managing your stress can allow you to move closer to conquering your anxiety.
It's natural to feel fearful given all of the devastating news we have received over the past couple of days. But you shouldn't let fear of terror keep you from living your everyday life. The goal of terrorism is to scare civilians; ultimately, pursuing the things you enjoy without allowing fear to hold you back is a powerful statement.