Dealing with Anxiety about World Events

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"Dealing with Anxiety about World Events"
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In the minds of most Americans, the world became a less friendly place to live on September 11, 2001. Once we witnessed the scope of humankind's cruelty to its own species, our minds struggled to comprehend the reality of just how frightening life could be. World events from that time on only added to the anxiety we may have already been experiencing for one reason or another. Even after seeing the news reports and hearing the commentary, we still had difficulty dealing with the sheer horror of the attacks on our country.

Although it certainly wasn't the first time there had been terrorism in the United States, it was the first time this magnitude of terror had been captured on television as it was happening. Then, as the videos played over and over, we became emotionally distraught and some people were psychologically scarred. Americans came to realize what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder really was. You didn't have to be deployed to a war zone in a foreign country to be affected by it. Watching the news reports, in some cases, was enough to scar your mind and give you a taste of what our military men and women were coming home with for decades after sacrificing for their country overseas. PTSD was real and could affect anyone.

One of the worst things we could have been doing during the fall of 2001 was watching the newscasts around the clock. It was compelling to do so. 24-hour cable news programs broadcast each event many times and continued their coverage for weeks afterward. We were glued to our televisions for fear of missing some breaking news or news alerts. Would we be attacked again? Would more survivors be found in the rubble? Would our country retaliate soon? We had questions, and we had anxiety.

In 2009, we have even more reasons to follow the news. We made it through the political acrobatics in the run-up to the presidential elections in November, 2008 and watched it all play out. Now there are more devastating issues we must deal with - two wars, rogue nations and their leaders, swine flu, the economy, bail-outs by the government, the debate over climate change, health care, real estate woes, and how we're viewed around the world. Let us not forget the treachery that we find taking place in our political system. That's just the short list. We're all watching and many are worrying.

Are we anxious? You bet we are. For people of faith, especially along evangelical lines and with strong literal Scriptural beliefs, world events are signaling "end times." Disasters of all types indicate catastrophic events that have been warned of in the Bible. Many are concerned about world events and how prepared they are to meet their maker. Catholics in some parishes line up more frequently for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, hoping to prepare as well as possible. Others fear retribution for what mankind has done to wreck the earth. Some people just want to get all their bills paid before the end comes. In one way or another, everyone seems to be anxious about world events. How do we deal with all the chaos in the world when there's so much of it at one time?

Lessening anxiety over world events is easier said than done. Turning on the news each day, there is something new - a new headline we haven't prepared for, a new law that will affect us all, another big company that has gone under, another attack on another country, more mothers and fathers killing their families, or more children killing their parents. More humans killing humans. How do we lessen anxiety when we're bombarded with bad news daily? There are ways if we can make a decision to change some of the things we do and most of the ways we think:

* Don't watch cable newscasts 24/7. Update yourself daily choosing one news program for perhaps an hour.

* Begin a healthy mindset by envisioning a more fulfilling future and allowing yourself to believe world events will eventually improve.

* Realize that all our worry and anxiety is not going to change or help anything. What we worry most about usually does not happen.

* Understand that many of the "new" kinds of tragedies aren't really new - we just hear more about them now because 24-hour news is sensationalized for higher ratings.

* Get enough sleep and pamper yourself whenever possible. In other words, take care of your mind and body. Keeping yourself fit is part of avoiding serious illnesses, and it also helps nourish an attitude that can defeat anxiety over world events.

* Volunteer! There is nothing quite like helping others to get yourself out of the doldrums and feel like you are making a difference in other people's lives. Having a purpose and making a difference for others takes your mind off your worries.

* Develop your spirituality, or focus more of your attention on your faith. Remember that events will play out in God's time, not ours, and we must simply do our best to be faithful to our beliefs.

* Keep busy. Finding a new interest, hobby, or something to study, which is a good investment in a more fulfilled life.

* Make a difference for the planet. Instead of worrying or being anxious about the condition of our planet, do things to make a positive difference. Plant flowers, shrubs, trees ... beautify your surroundings! Join a hiking group. Clean up the roadways. Rid waterways of trash. Recycle! Find ways to "go green." Think of it this way: We are the temporary caretakers of the earth, and each one of us should do our part.

Anxiety levels about world events need not be as high as they currently are, but if you feel yourself slipping into a more deeply troubled state of mind as a result of what's going on around the world, seek the help of a professional for a short-term course of therapy. Don't just let it slide. Undue anxiety can cause physical problems and lead to illness, so it's best to get some help if the above suggestions don't alleviate your anxiety.

More about this author: Dr. G. A. Anderson

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