AMERICA AT WAR: WHAT THE AVERAGE PERSON CAN DO
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, and now with the recently launched war with Iraq, many of us feel somewhat vulnerable and worried regarding the safety of our nation and our personal lives. We may be greatly concerned about the whereabouts of loved ones deployed to war zones. Within our American borders, we may have concerns about potential acts of terrorism, including possible chemical and biological attacks.
What can ordinary folks do to live wisely and productively during these unsettling times? Here are some suggestions for positive action:
*** Squarely face your feelings of anxiety and fear. It is natural to be somewhat worried and afraid. In addition to acknowledging our feelings to ourselves, we can talk them over with trusted friends and family members. Of course, it is best not to overwhelm children with our worries. We should save those conversations for healthy adults.
*** 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.
*** Pay enough attention to reliable news reports to get the essential facts, but then turn the news off for a while. Too much absorption in war coverage heightens feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness, which can numb our sensitivities and cause us to become apathetic toward positive actions that we might be able to take.
*** Focus your attention and energy on constructive work and recreation that will produce a sense of personal accomplishment. Plan physical action into your day whenever possible and take time for spiritual reflection. Encourage family members and friends to do the same.
*** Find a worthwhile task that will help you respond to the war or to care for someone in need, whether near or far. Examples: Write or telephone your Congressperson to express your opinion and to urge appropriate action; Collect items needed by agencies that support soldiers and their families, civilian victims of the war, or the poor in Third World countries; Volunteer at the headquarters of those agencies to sort donations, cook, or update their computer files; or offer to babysit the child of a parent whose spouse is away on military duty.
*** Spend extra time together as a family. Focus on some of the many good things that are happening in your life and in our world. Laugh, play, exercise, have fun; and be sure to eat well and get plenty of rest.
*** If you are spiritually oriented, don’t underestimate the research-documented power of prayer and meditation. They can make a major 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 troubled planet.
*** Focus on the positives in your world and your nearby environment. Consciously express appreciation for the affection of family members and dear friends, the warmth of the sun, the aroma of a fragrant cup of tea, or the rich beauty of the natural world around you.
In many ways, managing successfully boils down to living life one moment at a time, 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 daily 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.
Prepared by Sam Quick, Ph.D., Human Development and Family Relations Specialist; Carole Gnatuk, Ed.D., Child Development Specialist; and Alex Lesueur, Jr., M.S.L.S, Staff Support Associate.