December 07, 2015

Dealing with Increased Terror-Related Anxiety

Dealing with Increased Terror-Related Anxiety

In the wake of the recent terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, many people are experiencing increased anxiety.  Here are some basic things to consider concerning how these frightening events may be affecting you or someone you love:

1) Do an initial triage of your personal situation.  Tragedies do not affect everyone the same way.  A few simple questions can be helpful in determining how serious your increased anxiety might be or become.

--  Ask yourself how "close" you are to the actual violence. For example were the victims family members or people you knew?  Did your friends know any of the  victims?

-- Do you or close family or friends have any previous history involving violence ?
-- What is your general level of anxiety ?

People who have closer personal ties, histories involving violent trauma or who have anxiety disorders are going to be more affected than those who don't.   

2) Assess how significant the increased level of stress you experience is .

-- Do you have unpleasant and intrusive thoughts which interfere with your good mood?

-- Do you have trouble sleeping or eating because of worry about terrorism?

-- Does your level anxiety interfere with your work performance, relationships or physical health ?

Anxiety is often more than just feeling nervous.  In addition to worrying, elevated anxiety can cause us to lose perspective and and can result in impulsive and exaggerated reactions which are not reasonable or appropriate for the situation.  

Anxiety can interfere with living on many levels.  Knowing where and how much you are affected by the emotional stress, can help determine what the focus of your concern should be.

3) Ways to lower anxiety

-- Intentional, deepened, slower breathing.

-- Meditate

-- Listening to music

-- Soak in warm tub for 20 min. ( adding relaxing music is even better)

-- Ventilate your feelings and describe  what you are experiencing in a private journal and .. don't censor your words.

-- Do 30 minutes of aerobic exorcise.

-- Get a massage.

-- Step back and reality-test your perspective,  AKA, count your blessings.  

The level of help you may need depends on how many elevated risk factors you register.  It is also important to acknowledge that, because of the increased incidence of violence in the world, experiencing some increased anxiety is normal.  Given this unfortunate reality, it is also important to limit you exposure to the bad news not watch television or be on the internet continuously.   

If you've tried the suggestions listed above and they don't seem to help, please don't hesitate to get in touch with your doctor or a therapist. There are very effective treatments for anxiety and panic which are widely available.

Rev. Michael Heath , LMHC, Fellow A.A.P.C.  12 07 2015

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