Monthly Archives: November 2015

How to Cope With Anxiety During Terror Threats

Thanks; KATIE ROGERS

Published;NOVEMBER 19, 2015

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the attacks in Paris, spectators took pictures of the added security at Times Square.

HILARY SWIFT FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

The headlines this week are reminding psychologists of the anxiety and fear that followed the Sept. 11 attacks.
Suicide bombers and shootings in Paris. Attacks in Beirut and Nigeria. Threatening videos and public officials holding news conferences. Diverted planes. Suspicious packages. Lockdowns on campuses and fears of mass shooters.
“We will not be intimidated, and we will not live in fear,” William J. Bratton, the New York police commissioner, said Wednesday in response to an Islamic State propaganda video.
The point of terrorism is to terrify, public officials often say in these situations, so the best reaction is to go about your lives.
But what if you’re still anxious?

Terrorism’s unpredictable nature instills people with anxiety over the lack of control in their fate, Anne Marie Albano, a clinical psychologist and the director of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders, said in an interview.

“It’s becoming sort of everyday life,” Dr. Albano said, “knowing that we cannot predict with good accuracy at all when something may happen.”
If you’re feeling anxious, here are a few ways to cope:
Compare your fear with the facts.
Humans are bad at assessing risk, Martin Seif, a psychologist who specializes in treating anxiety disorders and the fear of flying, said in an interview. This means that when we fear the worst, it’s hard to rationalize that the outcome of, say, a flight or a train ride, is incredibly likely to be safe. But you have to try.
“Every single anxiety-management technique is based on the premise that your reaction is out of proportion” to the likelihood of danger, Dr. Seif said.
Limit your exposure to social media and the media.
It is natural to want to follow along with incremental updates on social media and in the news. But it’s important to know that this can heighten your anxiety.
Designating times to plug into the news — checking Twitter in the morning over coffee, but not listening to the radio while driving your kids to school, for instance — can help you manage anxiety if you are feeling stressed.
This will help you balance a realistic and credible threat with information that is sensationalized, Dr. Albano said, “or a rush to report something or talk about something that doesn’t have the impact that you would think it has.”
Breathe.
A guide to dealing with terrorism released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation encourages closing your eyes and taking deep breaths to feel calmer. Taking a walk or talking to a close friend can also help.
The guide also recommends avoiding alcohol and drugs, exercising regularly and eating healthy foods — basic self-care guidelines that help reduce stress.
Create a plan with your family.
It’s a good idea to draft a plan that details how you’ll get in contact with your family if something happens. But remember that you likely will not need it, Dr. Albano said.

If you have children, the American Psychological Association recommends asking them how they are feeling about the news. Keep in mind that it is possible for children to be influenced by news reports and adult conversations.
Keep your daily routine.
Dr. Albano said that a primary worry in the field of psychology is people “going out of their way to be so safe that it shrinks their world.
“Terrorists thrive on this kind of thing,” she added. “They want to see the population change their practices.”
There is a particular concern that going out of your way to avoid interacting with strangers — by taking mass transit, for example — can stoke fear and anxiety in children, she said.
The antidote to this is keeping a routine that enables you to meet people who don’t look like you, people who you wouldn’t otherwise know.
“Parents and adults have to similarly look around at one another and get to know people,” she said.
Dr. Albano praised the people of Paris for returning to cafes.
“That was a message to us from Giuliani after 9/11,” she recalled. “ ‘Get back to the ballgames. Get out there. Let’s go.’ ”