When terrorist acts occur, people generally look for ways to cope with the acute stress and trauma. Terrorism evokes a fundamental fear of helplessness. The violent actions are random, unprovoked, and intentional, and often are targeted at defenseless citizens. Trying to cope with the irrational information that is beyond normal comprehension can set off a chain of psychological events culminating in feelings of fear, helplessness, vulnerability, and grief.
Although there are people in this world who are dangerous, and these attacks are absolutely horrific, we all need to know that the world and the people in it are far more good than they are dangerous.
Xenophobia, or the fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners, can be heightened under a terrorist threat and can become a social and psychological danger. The fear generated by terrorism can be exacerbated by a population’s diversity if there is distrust between groups, categories and classification of citizens.
Here are specific ways you can manage your own responses to these events
Express gratitude as a powerful antidote to fear.
When you give thanks, it is difficult to also feel fear at the same time. A heartfelt sense of appreciation that connects you with what is good and right in your life will help restore harmony and balance in both your mind and your body. Remember to be thankful for the many blessings already present in your life.
Recognize when you tell yourself “stories that don’t need to happen.”
The stress of war and terrorism can easily lead the mind to imagine all sorts of unpleasant outcomes, which in turn leads to more worry and anxiety. To interrupt this unproductive mental feedback loop, simply recognize and then release such thoughts by saying to yourself, “This is a story that doesn’t need to happen.” The trick is not to suppress negative thoughts or deny them, but to simply honor them and then let them go. And when a desirable story arises in your inner dialogue, recognize it and then release it by saying to yourself, “Yes, this is a healing story.”
Choose relaxing activities before bedtime to get better sleep.
Our curious minds naturally want to know the latest news and how it might affect us. It’s a basic survival instinct. But it’s also important to get a good night’s rest, and watching TV news at night before bedtime can be detrimental to the quality of your sleep. A better survival strategy is to catch up on the news during the day, and in the evening focus on relaxing or mentally uplifting activities. Instead of watching TV news at night, try listening to music, reading a book, or watching a non-violent movie. You are likely to sleep better, have more pleasant dreams, and awaken more refreshed – and thus be better able to cope with daily stress.
Take time to care for yourself to restore balance in your life.
Providing good self-care is not selfish. If you are totally stressed out, you won’t have much left over to give to yourself or to others. It’s important to take the time to do something you love to do – something just for you – at least once a day. Go for a leisurely walk, get a massage, listen to some favorite music, take a long hot bath, get a manicure, take a nap, or do any other healthy activity that gives you energy. This will increase the balance in your life, thus helping you to better deal with anxiety and stress.