Anxiety and the Plane Crash in Clarence, NY



We woke up to the news that fifty people died in a horrible plane crash last night. Grief grips our community. Nothing can come close to describing what anyone who lost a loved one feels. My deepest sympathies for your loss.

Many of us are not directly effected by this tragedy. For those of us who live in or close to Clarence, have friends and family who live there, anxiety can prey on us. Add to that fear of flying issues, PTSD or sensitivity to panic attacks and we’ve got a formula for full blown anxiety.

Let’s take care of ourselves so that we can function not only for ourselves but also for our loved ones, especially the kids. How do we do that?  Here are some tips:

Turn off the radio or television. Get off the news blogs. I am convinced that our brains and bodies are not made to assimilate repeated traumatic news. All we achieve is overloaded circuits and increased anxiety. Allow yourself to walk away from the news and come back to it later if you must and then only for ten minute updates.

Breathe. If you begin to feel the yellow flag signals of anxiety coming on (increased heart rate, shallow breathing, tense muscles, sweaty palms…) use your coping tools to keep the fear under control. Don’t run away from the feeling. Stop and breathe through it. Keep breathing; make yourself as comfortable as possible. Go to healthy distractions, like exercise, call a friend, go to church, mosque or temple. If you’re at work, don’t expect yourself to focus as usual, be easy on yourself and keep your schedule light if you can.

The best antidote to anxiety is action. What can you do? You can help. Erica on the Buffalo News blog (see the comment section) suggests a way to help the family that lost their house and loved one. They lost everything. You can also pray; pray for those who perished, their families and for the emergency response teams. They will need God with them. If you don’t pray, find out where you can give blood and go do it. It may not help in this situation but it will help someone somewhere in another emergency.

Be calm for your kids. If you have small children, they need you to be grounded and practical. Answer their questions as directly as you can without elaborating. If they ask: “Will a plane fall on our house?” Answer: “No, of course not. This is a very strange thing that happened. It’s never happened before and it will never happen again.” This is a perfectly appropriate thing to say to small children. It may be a slight exaggeration but not much and they need to be reassured they are safe.

Don’t give in to the anxious thoughts. Fight back. Remember to give yourself the oxygen of balanced thinking. You are fine. A tragedy of this magnitude challenges all of us but most of us are OK.

Sadness is not the same as anxiety. Neither is grief. Grief is necessary. Respect it. Anxiety is an intruder. Firmly tell it to leave

Please leave a comment if you have questions, need help or have more suggestions!

14 comments


  • SD

    Dr Aletta,
    Thank you for writing this. I fortunately do not know anyone who was on that plane yet I am struggling today. I have to fight back the tears. (As you wrote before – I am one of those easy criers) My office is very quiet as someone who used to work here was on the plane. I did not work with that person but a lot of the staff did. It is just an extremely quiet place.
    I have been having moments of panic and a full blown anxiety attach this morning. I have tried to remember to breath. I also took something to try and calm me down.
    I found myself searching for information about the crash on-line but remembered from the past that it was not a good idea so I stopped. I will try and stay away from the news tonight as well.
    It was good reading that I may not be alone in these feelings.
    Thank you again for writing. It does help.

    2009/02/13
  • Natalie

    Just wanted to chime in and let SD know that you’re not alone. While I haven’t had big anxiety symptoms today, this crash has definately been on my mind ALL day. Not originally from Buffalo, I don’t have the strong connections to the area (I’ve only been here less than 3 years). But, there’s something about it being close to “home” and being here as long as I have, wondering, “Do I know someone who knew someone on that flight?”
    I want to help. I always want to help in these situations. But I know keeping families in my thoughts and prayers is one step. It’s such a tragic situation and all your suggestions, Dr. Aletta, are great reminders. I turned off the news a little while after I got home today and haven’t had it on since. Although, I’ll check back in later tonight.
    Thank you so much for writing this. It really helps and is a great reminder to know that, in the midst of this sad situation, people care.

    2009/02/13
  • A great pre-emptive post! You’ve combined the two things I believe are most important for averting long-term anxiety and healing trauma:
    1. what to do in the moment to quell the overflow of emotion
    2. what to do in the future to interrupt an obsession with the past
    My father always taught me, ‘Action puts fear to flight’. In my own PTSD healing I found that going out there and doing something outside of myself helped me look forward to the future so that I didn’t continue to define myself in terms of the past.
    I would also add, in addition to your tips, the importance of reaffirming life at this time. What can we do to remind ourselves to live the present to the fullest, not because we might die tomorrow, but because when we live as well as we can we are more mentally stable, balanced and able to deal with adversity?
    I pursue joy on almost a daily basis. For me, this takes the form of dance. I dance as much as possible (Latin and ballroom) so that I feel that swell of joy and can use the strength it gives me to handle negative situations.

    2009/02/14
  • I can empathize with anybody who suffers from panic attacks. I discovered some solutions, and started a website about this. Thank you

    2009/08/17
  • your post is a big help..i want to share this link also to all whose suffering from panic attacks…
    http://www.stoppingpanicattack.com/
    http://www.stoppingpanicattack.com/
    http://www.stoppingpanicattack.com/

    2009/09/16
  • Can You Really End Panic Attacks for Good?
    Of course you can if you have the right methods:
    1) Know physical panic symptoms you are experiencing
    2) Do your own research first. It’s also a good idea to read books and e-books written by people who have been in your situation.
    3) Join a support group
    Good Luck

    2009/12/03
  • panic attacks and anxiety attacks can be handled provided the sufferer is patient and persistent.like all say,everything is in our mind – actually the behavior.

    2009/12/09
  • Panic attacks are becoming a very common existance, especially when it comes to plane crashes. After 911 people have become very afraid to fly on planes, and who can blame them.

    2009/12/09
  • these are very good tips for people to handle with anxiety.simple but really very effective.

    2009/12/10
  • I can imagine that anxiety and plane crashes are closely related. Even before the twin towers were bombed people had a serious fear of flying, so nowadays it has increased drastically

    2009/12/11
  • Do you feel a Panic or Anxiety attack can happen at any time?
    People in this situation often feel that are lucky
    to make it through the day without that switch been
    flicked but in the back of their mind they fear that it
    could happen at any moment day or night.
    They remain on high alert anticipating it.
    Anticipating the big one!
    In fact most people who experience panic attacks
    fear it in this manner. It is natural for people to think this
    way as often the panic attacks come forcefully out
    of the blue.
    The truth of the situation is however
    different. A panic attack does not lurk in the background
    waiting to pounce, it can feel that way in your mind
    if you are anxious but that is not how it really works.
    Panic attacks are actually something we decide to
    initiate when we feel out of control.
    The thought that triggers almost all panic attacks is :
    “This is too much , I cannot handle this,”
    Then the adrenaline starts to really pump.
    “Ah I was right look my body is going into a fit…
    “I am terrified by what is about to
    happen…HELP,- PANIC… !”
    The severity of the panic attack is directly
    related to how you are feeling at that time.
    If you are exhausted physically, mentally or emotionally
    then you are more vulnerable to feeling anxious.
    After the panic attack has run its course, it is
    followed by a prolonged period of general anxiety.
    During this time the person fears that the panic
    switch might go off again at any moment sending
    them into another tailspin of high anxiety.
    WANT MORE CONTROL?
    check on this site.
    http://www.stoppingpanicattack.com

    2009/12/14
  • I’ve being researching about Anxiety and reading your blog, I found your post very helpful. I thought I would leave my first comment. Even i have seen here many hspital sites, doctor sites and other people who advice for health care but some of them are which i like. As you can see http://www.torontotherapydirectory.ca you can check it. Its really good and will help you for sure.

    2010/05/17
  • Well said . These days everybody is busy in his works. We have time for all the things except taking care of our heath. Thats why untill we realize that it has been too late. And there are many things which are giving us tension in our daily life. Many reasons to loose your health. But we have to make sure to keep visiting our doctors.

    2010/05/17
  • I always want to help in these situations too. But I know keeping families in my thoughts and prayers is one step.
    Luke Hamilton

    2010/05/19

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