Amid international tensions and the war between the United States and Iraq, many of us feel vulnerable and worried about the safety of our nation and our personal lives. We have a natural need to know what is going to happen; therefore, it can be extremely difficult for us when we don't know what will take place next. We can become anxious and create imaginary scenarios that are sometimes worse than what actually happens. In addition, a chief frustration for many is our lack of direct control over world affairs. No matter what we do, our ability to directly affect these events is limited. We can, however, make a difference by engaging ourselves positively in life. Consider these ideas.
We must each decide, in our own way, to detach ourselves somewhat from all that we cannot control. We may not be able to directly affect the outcome of the war or prevent terrorism, but we can remain calm and take commonsense precautions. Attack personal worry before it gets out of hand. Learn to distinguish between what is clear and present danger and what you shouldn't worry about. A "fight or flight" mentality is unhealthy when there is nothing tangible in your environment to fight or run from.
Squarely face your feelings of anxiety and fear. It is natural to be somewhat worried and afraid. In addition to acknowledging these feelings to ourselves, we can talk them over with trusted friends and family members. It is best not to overwhelm children with our worries. Save those conversations for healthy adults.
Maintain a balance of activities in family life. Children and adults need to talk about what is happening, then return to everyday activities. Turn the television on for updates, then turn it off. Children can become overly frightened when there is constant information about the war coming into family life. Replaying war scenes increases fear and insecurity for both children and parents. This can numb our sensitivities and cause us to become apathetic, failing to take those positive actions that can ensure our well being. It is helpful to do normal, happy things, such as going on family outings. These things remind adults and children that the war is only one of many things happening in our world.
Give children an opportunity to talk about their fears and concerns. Ask them what they fear. Some of their fears may include being separated from family members or concerns about people dying or being hurt. Address whatever fears are expressed. For example, if children are afraid of being separated from family members, develop a plan so they will know what to do if this occurs. Always be honest with children, but also assure them that adults who care about them are doing everything they can to keep them safe. Provide examples.
Listen with understanding and patience to those who need to share their thoughts with you. A sense of mutual caring creates a community of love and concern that strengthens and reassures each of us.
Focus your attention and energy on constructive work and recreation that will produce a sense of personal accomplishment. Plan physical action into your day.
Find a worthwhile task that will help you respond to the war. Care for someone in need, whether near or far. Examples: write or telephone your Congressperson to express your opinion and to urge appropriate action. Donate blood. Collect items needed by agencies that support soldiers and their families, civilian victims of war or the poor in third world countries. Volunteer to sort donations, cook or update computer files for these agencies. Offer to baby-sit the child of a parent whose spouse is away on military duty. Donate food for the hungry.
Express appreciation to friends and loved ones. Be thankful for the many good people in our country and throughout the world. Acknowledge the debt we have to each of the brave men and women who are risking their lives to promote freedom.
Reduce stress by keeping a light heart. Enjoy a sport or hobby. Focus on the good things happening in your life and in the world. Count your blessings. Have a good laugh with a special friend or a favorite comedian. Laughter can actually decrease depression and increase a positive sense of well-being. Express appreciation for the warmth of the sun, the aroma of a fragrant cup of tea or the rich beauty of the natural world around you.
If you are spiritually oriented, don't underestimate the research-documented power of prayer and meditation. They can make a difference, not only in your composure and spiritual health, but also in the well-being of your community and in helping to promote peace across our world.
In many ways, managing successfully during this difficult time boils down to creating balance in our lives, protecting ourselves and our communities as best we can, reassuring and caring for others and focusing as much as possible on the ever-present bright spots in our lives. We cannot erase our worries, but we can contain them, and we can focus most of our energies on positive thoughts and constructive activities.