DR. E. CAROL WEBSTER’S
STRESS OF WAR CAN DEPRESS YOU
E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Original Copyright © 2003
News reports from around the country confirm what psychologists are seeing everyday: people are feeling more stress because of fear about the war on Iraq. It doesn’t matter whether you are pro- or anti-war, you can feel the effects of the country’s conflict abroad and it can get you down. Keep it from undermining your success at work and in your personal life by taking action:
Recognize The Signs
Some people feel nervous, afraid, plagued by persistent worries about what’s going to happen next. Their stress is shown in the ways you typically think of, such as trembling, sweating, getting headaches, stomachaches, or diarrhea, and being unable to relax and sleep.
Others complain of feeling down in the dumps, pessimistic and negative, tired all the time, and spend a lot more time in the bed when they’re at home — even though they don’t really feel rested when they get up.
For some, the symptoms show themselves in work-related ways, such as being late or calling in sick a lot, having trouble concentrating and getting things done, missing important project deadlines and work activities, or outright forgetting office policies, procedures, and practices that they normally know by heart. These signs indicate that stress is getting to you and is probably causing you to be less productive at work and at home. In these bad economic times, this is not good. It keeps you from moving forward in your career. Take steps to get this stress under control.
Accept That Fear Is Normal
In times of war, it is perfectly normal to feel afraid. Fear is an expected response to scary things and this fear is heightened when you don’t know how things are going to turn out. Today, fears of terrorism linger in the backdrop too, and so it’s quite understandable that you have concerns about your safety and that of your family. Your tension will be heightened if you have a relative in the military or know someone personally who is engaged in the war effort. You also may feel more stressed than others if you visit or live near a military base where war issues predominate.
Don’t Add To Your Own Fear
It’s important to understand that you may be fueling your own fear if you spend too much time watching television or Internet reports about the war, listening to radio shows, or talking to other people about every latest military move or attack in Iraq. There is such a thing as too much information. It becomes negative over-stimulation after a point. You can keep your fear manageable if you:
Limit the time you’re engrossed in reading, watching, or listening to stories about the war. Get the information you need, but then give it a rest. If you’re watching broadcasts of the same information over and over, you’ve had enough.
Make sure to control your children’s exposure to war news and scary information. If they’re terrified, your stress will rise too. While it’s fine to discuss the war with them in a manner that’s appropriate for their age, understand that kids need to be kids and not burdened with the heaviness of these issues before their time.
Remember that when you’re at work you’re at work. Even though your employer may provide a television in the break room so that everyone can keep posted on the latest war developments, that doesn’t mean that you should spend your day in there. Nor does it mean staying logged onto the Internet so that you can track what’s going on with the war on a minute-by-minute basis. Aim to stay on-task until you hear that something major has happened that you feel you absolutely must check out.
Try not to get drawn into hot debates about the war at work and with your friends. Of course you’ll be talking about it here and there, but pull back when the discussion gets heated. Hard feelings can result because of differing points of view and grudges can persist long after the war is over. You have to work with your coworkers everyday and socialize with your friends for many years to come, so avoid putting these relationships at risk by avoiding intense arguments that often turn mean-spirited. You’re not likely to change their opinions on this subject anyway.
Stick to your normal work and personal routines as much as possible, with the exception of certain international travel, which most companies and individuals understandably have curtailed for now. In evenings and on weekends, don’t forego fun activities to hold up at home tracking what’s going on with the war. Life goes on and yours should too.
Take Control Of The Things You Can
It’s important to remember that you do have control over some things, even if it’s not the war. Ease feelings of helplessness by taking some action:
Donate to an organization that supports the troops or the anti-war movement, depending upon your point of view. Join projects that need help preparing items to send as humanitarian aid overseas or participate in a protest rally. Just don’t get too wrapped up in these activities or let them consume you because then they’re no longer helpful.
Keep on your regular sleep schedule even though you may not sleep well right now. If you consistently stay up nights following what’s going on with the war, you’re more likely to be one of those folks who drags into work late the next morning and who accomplishes very little once you get there.
Calm jittery nerves by practicing your relaxation exercises, meditating, or getting some type of exercise. Pent up stress can cause you to feel exceptionally tired and even ill, so find an outlet for getting rid of it. If you find yourself abusing alcohol or other drugs to do this, get some help.
Ask your boss to bring in a stress management consultant to meet with your department. This will allow the team to deal with war worries together so that everyone can manage them better and keep them from getting in the way at work. It’s a win for you and a win for the company.
Contact your Employee Assistance Program for help in coping with your war worries or seek private counseling on your own. This will help you keep rein on your fears and put your concerns about the war in perspective so that you can feel some relief.
Get moving on your plans for the future. Sure, you feel that the war could impact lots of things, but you can’t predict or control that, so get back on track with the success goals you’ve set for yourself at work and in your personal life. You can do something about those!
About the Author:
Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,
The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers
To contact Dr. Webster visit online at http://drcarolwebster.com or call 954.797.9766.
E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262 Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317
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