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Coping with Wartime Stress

Armen Hareyan's picture

With a war in Iraq and warnings of terrorist threats at home, Americans are living in frightening and uncertain times. Feeling irritable, anxious, or helpless are common reactions to the stressful world situation - whether you have loved ones in the armed forces or are simply exposed to the barrage of news coverage on TV.

While it is normal to feel stressed in times of conflict, allowing stress to go unchecked can undermine your health and well-being. Here are some ways you can help yourself and your family cope with the challenges of wartime:

  • Limit the time you spend watching war coverage on TV. During the first war in the Persian Gulf, commentators coined the phrase "CNN syndrome" to describe some viewers' compulsion to watch the war unfold around the clock. But facing graphic, disturbing news and images morning, noon, and night can increase anxiety. Instead, decide in advance how much time you want to devote to news-watching, and stick to those limits.

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  • If you have children, monitor their TV consumption. With war-related coverage on TV at all hours, you may want to take extra precautions to make sure what they see is age-appropriate. Even more important than what children see on TV, however, is how they see you respond. It's OK to show them that you are concerned and even afraid, but they should also be reassured that you are not overwhelmed and can cope with those feelings (If you do feel unable to cope, seek professional help).

  • Spend extra time with your family in a TV-free zone. Playing a game, going for a walk, or enjoying other activities together can be a great way to let off steam and focus on the positive aspects of life. Activities involving exercise can be particularly helpful for relieving stress.

  • Be available to talk with your kids about their feelings. If you see your children showing concern, ask how they're feeling