Psychological Support More Important Than Ever

Psychological Support More Important Than Ever

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

The present environment of generalized threat is causing stress. A national poll done after September 11, by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, shows that seven in 10 Americans are feeling somewhat depressed. Five in 10 complained of attention-concentration problems and about three in 10 reported trouble sleeping through the night. In a survey by a Houston school, children reported similar problems.

Persons more like to be affected are those who previously suffered from major loss, notably, death or injury of a loved one due to unnatural circumstances; victims of rape, trauma, or abuse; already suffering from such stressful events as divorce, serious illness or disability and those who are chronically depressed, anxious, or emotionally disturbed.

Many people, who didn't know any of the victims personally, still experience acute stress. They suffer from flashbacks of the TV images of the World Trade Center on September 11, obsessive thoughts and intrusive memories about the attack and occasional lapses of concentration.

On the lighter side (or heavier) side of the matter, consumption of potato chips have increased across the nation, which could be a sign of nervousness or, of the inability to apply oneself to tasks which require perseverance and concentration. Some find it hard to stick to their pan of dieting, smoking and alcohol reduction or similar other restrictions they try to impose on themselves.

Remember, these are temporary and transient signs of stress, which simply show that we are human. It is natural to feel sympathy for others and to worry about our own safety. Most people who are subjected to severe trauma remain healthy. Sadness, anger, fear and confusion during chaos and crisis are normal.

Today, a mother who brings a baby into this world wonders what kind of future the child might experience? Another mother who leaves her child at school and heads to the local mall wonders if she might be safe going into the mall and if her child will be all right at school.

To assume that everything is in order and will work predictably is hard these days. We have lost that sense of predictability we used to rely on. As a result, we experience grief, sadness, fear, disbelief, a sense of loss of control and an overall feeling of uncertainty.

The people who commit arson, vandalism or some other form of senseless violence, should leave us alone for the time being. I hope they can find something else to seek excitement, like traveling to New York City to help pick up the debris or grow plants across the city in the name of the victims.

When we face real threats to our safety, we're likely to feel anxious. The fear you experience is normal. You're not losing control or going crazy.

Some people like to talk about what they're experiencing and others don't. Some want to be with other people and others don't. Whatever you do, believe in and remind yourself of your strength. When you are able to complete something in spite of the fear you feel inside, you are strong. It is a mistake to assume that experiencing fear is a sign of weakness. Feeling the fear and still doing what you want to do or had already set out to do is indeed a sign of courage.

I often talk about a "3-legged stool" of mind-body control; the three legs beings, 1. Breath 2. Muscles and 3. Thoughts. In order to control the stress reaction of the body and mind, deepen your breath, relax your muscles and take charge of your thoughts.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of stress, do conscious deep breathing several times a day to focus and concentrate your energies.

Likewise, take the time to relax the muscles systematically from the head to the toes. Remember to include the arms and hands too. They too "have a hand" in keeping you tensed up. Shoulders, neck and forehead are the biggest reservoirs of stress. Take an extra round to work on those muscles.

Actually, two sessions a day, each one for just ten minutes, could prove to be very beneficial for mind-body control. You may even include a light walk in those ten minutes and work on your breath and muscles simultaneously.

Become an expert in identifying anxious and negative thoughts instantly as you think them. In the same breath that you think those thoughts, redirect them to positive things.

Take advantage of the season of Thanksgiving. It is helpful to remind ourselves of all the things we should be thankful for. Identify all the things that you treasure most and should celebrate today for having them. A strong and pervasive feeling of gratitude can work as a powerful antidote against the feeling of sadness, pessimism and even despair.

A smile, a wink, and a warm greeting is all that people need from one another. Somehow, it conveys the message, "We all are in it together and if need be, I will be there for you and I hope you would be there for me."

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Copyright 2001, Mind Publications 


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