In the wake of the horrific and outrageous terrorism attacks in Paris this past weekend, people around the world, and most especially in Paris, are on high alert and feeling devastatingly anxious. Parisians certainly must not feel too different from how millions felt after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S. Although we are now 14 years post-911, terror is still very much a part of our society and only becoming more of a concern as hatred grows.
One must understand that the very nature of terrorism is to instill fear and helplessness in people and hold them and society psychologically hostage. The utter irrationality and unpredictability of such acts leaves people feeling highly anxious and vulnerable, thus strengthening the impact these despicable events have on individuals and society.
One of the best antidotes against this impact is to resist your natural inclination to demonize or hate a certain cultural or religious group, simply because the terrorists might look like them or come from the same country. Being fearful or hating someone or a group just because they are different won't help you or the larger problem of terrorism. In fact, xenophobia will make matters worse and will spur further violence as distrust and hate crimes multiply.
Here's what you can do to feel stronger in the wake of the Paris attacks:
1. Identify your feelings and give yourself a break.
Feelings of anxiety are a normal reaction to a stressful event. Such a reaction is an indicator that you are a healthy minded person under dire circumstances.
2. Accept the notion that uncertainty is part of the fabric of our society.
We will never know exactly what terrorists are thinking or where they might strike next. This is part of modern life. Focus on what you know and can control rather than on what you don't know and can't control.
3. Separate fact from fiction.
Write two columns on a piece of paper. On one side write what you know to be fact and on the other write what might be more rumor or hype. Put an X through the second column and focus only on the facts.
4. Ready your workplace.
Treat the potential for danger as you would other types of crises that could affect your workplace. For example, is there a strategy in place to handle multiple injuries? Is there a point person responsible for ensuring a head count and that people are safe? If there are such procedures, then review them and have periodic drills--similar to a fire drill. Reviewing and practicing will help people to be able to act should the need arise. If you're a business owner, understand that your employees will appreciate your awareness of an issue that might loom in their minds and cause anxiety. By having preparedness drills you show that you care about the well-being of your staff. If you're employed and your company doesn't have a program in place, be proactive and discuss with your supervisor or Human Resource Department.
5. Choose a news source that you trust and stick with it.
Stay away from media that report hype, gossip and fear-mongering. Further, determine a news-exposure pattern. Decide how much news you'll expose yourself to and allot a limited time to watching it. For instance, it might be just in the morning and evening. Know that if anything major happens you'll find out in due time.
6. Maintain structure and routine in your day.
Remember, anxiety in part stems from uncertainty, so do your part to make your day predictable. This would include maintaining your work, exercise routine, and social activities. The more you can take care of your basic and usual needs, the less out of sorts you'll feel.
7. Make survival tactics part of your everyday life.
Things that perhaps we didn't need to think about at an earlier point in our history, we do now. Accept this reality and live with it. Simple actions on your part and being aware can make a big difference should there be an incident. For example, knowing where emergency exits are if you are at a public place such as a movie theater, concert hall, or shopping plaza. Keeping your phone at full charge when you go out can provide peace of mind and allow you to notify friends and family should you not be able to get home right away. And of course, maintaining vigilance, keeping a clear head, and avoiding inebriation will all help.
8. Be proactive.
Feelings of helplessness and complacency feed fear so by being active, you'll feel better. Volunteering or sending food and gift parcels overseas to soldiers and survivors are two ways you can take charge and help someone in need.