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Empathy, Accountability Key In Moving Forward In Harmony Following Violent Protests, Expert Says

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Living in what feels like a war zone, that's what many people around the country and in the Philadelphia region are thinking and feeling. We're surrounded by anger and fear and experts say it's important to find perspective and ways to move forward in harmony.

Protesting for racial equality and justice are ideals that many embrace. But some feel the violence and looting that followed the protests hijacked and derailed the mission.

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And then there are the business owners who feel violated and the first responders who are overwhelmed. Emotions are overflowing.

Signs of chaos are everywhere -- boarded-up buildings, fires and protests continuing.

This follows a weekend when the streets of Philadelphia were filled with people calling for justice for George Floyd and to raise awareness of oppression.

"There are a lot of injustices that are happening now and have been happening for a long time and there are a lot of people that have been dealing with the anxiety, the hurt and the anger for the majority of their life for centuries, especially as you talk about racism going back to slavery," Dr. George James said.

James, with the Council for Relationships, says protests with the best of intentions for change can be disrupted and turn violent because emotions are so raw.

"That is unfortunate because it does take away from the larger message of injustice, of racism, of being hurt, of pain that people are really trying to shed light on," James said.

James says empathy and accountability will be an important part of rebuilding emotionally.

"In terms of harmony, a lot of it is going to be educating yourself, being able to really to understand histories of injustice, long-term pain that people have experienced and not negate it and being able to understand that -- to put yourself in those situations or understand that can be true and being willing to say, 'What can I do to help?' Not just feel bad, but to be able to make a change and a difference especially when there's systems of injustice," James said.

Emotionally, experts say it's important to limit exposure to upsetting material and focus on things you can control, activities that make you happy or are at least distracting.

Experts add exercise is one of the best ways to deal with stress.

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