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Wartime Stress Survival Tips

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I have sent a few comments especially for people around the world. This message, passed on from Mark Gorkin, is especially for friends, colleagues, and readers in the US.


Wartime Stress Survival Tips Mark Gorkin

In light of the terrorist tragedy, here are some survival tips and strategies:

1. Engage in Anticipatory Grieving. For some, this will entail active protesting or rallying, pro or con. For others, the expression of anger or anxiety needs to be private, prayerful and quiet. Whatever your mode of expression, know that you may be an emotional roller coaster racing through highs and lows of a war-charged grief cycle. Memories of previous loss - not necessarily war-related - may be stirred by our current crisis. This is not a logical experience but a psycho-logical one. And if, or when, you sense you need an ear, a shoulder, a hug, please...reach out. Or touch someone who does. And don't forget the kids. They, especially, need an adult pillar if not, also, a teddy bear, doll or pet to help manage separation stress and their runaway imagination.

2. Find Strength in Numbers. Whether it's a dear friend who lost her 20 year old daughter in a car crash or the disparate folks grappling with life most people long for some group solace and support. Peers who are there or who have been there can truly be "Compassionate Friends." Despite wartime slogans and solidarity, KNOWING or, even, knowing the stress of war introduces us, even if only for a fleeting moment, to our absolutely indivisible, frightful, existential aloneness. Try not to run or hide, unless you must. Better to stand fast, then feel and share...or share and feel.

3. Adapt "The Four 'R's of Burnout Recovery. Activities that are meant to be restorative after the fact may be therapeutically applied in anticipation of the battlefront:

a. Running. Start a regimen of running, jogging, brisk walking, or endorphins pumping, jumping routine. It's not "runner's high" but a runner's calm that's biochemically induced. This chemical influx helps slow a racing mind and helps lift a sluggish mood. Also, aerobic exercise is great for grounding you when feeling vulnerable or when life feels uncertain and up in the air. There's a beginning and end point with a tangible sense of control and accomplishment.

b. Reading. In my darkest hours, I always return to reading humorous stories, for the sense of absurdity and for the endorphins. As the comedic genius, Charlie Chaplin, observed: The paradoxical thing about making comedy is that it's precisely the tragic, which arouses the funny. We have to laugh due to our sense of helplessness in the face of natural forces (and in order) not to go crazy. Also, laughter has been likened to "inner jogging." Laughing with gusto is like turning your body into a big vibrator giving vital organs a brief but hardy internal massage.

c. Retreating. Now most associations to the word "retreat" in a military context are not so positive. However, for me the word means finding a refuge, a sanctum, a safe haven where one can tend to wounds, reflect on the current psychosocial upheavals and listen for our inner core, the emotional essence of who we are. Here one discovers or, at least, realizes the need for a higher power - a spiritual and communal connection with nature, humanity and/or the great mysterious beyond.

d. Writing. Especially in the void of wartime separation, writing (or recording a message) to loved ones becomes the vital bridge to heart and home. But writing also can be a source of self-discovery and a tool for keeping the faith. Journaling through angst and loss is a time-honored tradition. And contemporary research indicates that writing, especially when we take the time to express and analyze our emotions can help us hold on in a stormy sea of stress.

Hopefully, this war will be averted. And yet, any crisis, as the Chinese noted thousands of years ago, brings both danger and opportunity. So, I will close with words penned years ago during a double-edged turbulent period of my life: Whether the loss is a key person, a desired position or a powerful illusion, each deserves the respect of a mourning. The pit in the stomach the clenched fists and quivering jaw, the anguished sobs prove catalytic in time. In mystical fashion, like Spring upon Winter, the seeds of dissolution bear fruitful renewal.

With thoughts of grace and, as always...Practice Safe Stress!

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" T, an international speaker and syndicated writer, is America Online's "Online Psychohumorist" T (Keyword Stress Doc or ) For more info, email or call 202-232-8662.

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Last updated: September 17, 2001 in Hot Metal Pro 6.0