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Afar from Violence; Managing Stress in the West

I see children trembling, extracted from the rubble of crumbled households, covered in ashes and blood. The “Sensitive Content” warning; behind it are men rushing injured children to medical aid, dismembered bodies laying on concrete, or people crushed under the weight of their once homes. I feel immense sadness when confronted with these unimaginable images of pain and suffering. While tragedies are occurring by the hour, I am confronted with my privileges. I go about my days as a student, taking steps forward in my life. I am fed, comforted, and entertained. Every night I sleep confident for the next day, never expecting the sky to fall over me.

Although it is important to stay informed, it becomes hard when seeing countless heartbreaking news updates and images. I have the privilege of turning off my phone and escaping these images, but these images are the reality of those it captures. So how could I say that I feel distressed? To this, we must acknowledge that given our position within a Western country and the stark contrasts between our lives here and there, we will inevitably feel guilt. Feelings of guilt can lead to either complete avoidance or heavy immersion into difficult subject matter, both to a fault. Rather than sitting in our own guilt, we can use our privileges to show our support through various methods.

So what can we do? First, we can take a holistic and unbiased approach to educate ourselves on the history leading up to these events. As people living in the West, it is crucial that we understand systems of oppression and the factors that perpetuate them. Then, we can acknowledge the areas we can contribute to change as individuals by listening to the needs expressed by communities. Throughout history, efforts such as protesting, boycotting, donating, and voting have been effective in enacting change. Recently, social media has become a communal and universal platform to share information and support causes, meaning we all have access to various perspectives and a unique platform to stand for what we believe in. Though it can feel like your efforts are only a drop in a pond, that one drop will lead to ripples. The people within your circle will see your efforts and can be inspired to stand for justice. As rain is formed by many single drops, people coming together for a cause is extremely powerful.

Though it would be ideal to strike a balance between being informed and preserving our mental wellness, it may not always be realistic. If you are questioning humanity, if you are at odds with your family, or if you are feeling distressed or overwhelmed, your feelings are valid. We can respect our limits in consuming difficult media and also continue to put efforts toward supporting the cause. We can seek emotional support and alliance within our communities. And we can stand up and hold out hope for a future where no one will turn their back on genocide.

Abrams, Z. (2022, April 13). How to handle the trauma of war from afar.

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