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Stress from War, Violence Takes on Many Forms

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  • Written By: Lorrie Henderson, Ph.D., MBA, LCSW
Stress from War, Violence Takes on Many Forms

In recent days, many of us have been glued to our screens as we witnessed the unfolding events in Israel. The images and reports we have seen on the news and across social media have been deeply distressing, leaving many of us grappling with feelings that are difficult to put into words. The relentless violence and upheaval have taken their toll, and even those of us with the steadiest of nerves can find ourselves overwhelmed by the weight of what we have witnessed.

Stress, in the wake of such traumatic events, can take on many forms, some overt and others more subtle. Following a traumatic incident, it is not uncommon for people to feel a sense of shock or disorientation. The American Psychological Association has identified several common responses to trauma, including: intense and unpredictable emotional swings; physical reactions like a racing heart, excessive sweating, altered appetite, and disrupted sleep patterns; an increased sensitivity to environmental factors, such as sirens and loud noises; strained interpersonal relationships; and physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, and chest pain.

It is essential to remember that, for many people, these reactions are entirely normal responses to an abnormal and distressing situation. Most individuals can gradually recover from the stress they experience in the aftermath of such events through their natural resilience and support from loved ones.

Most people can alleviate stress by using some of the following strategies:

  • Limit your media exposure. Breaking the habit of checking the news regularly may be the single most effective change in combating war anxiety.
  • Reach out to others.
  • Change your routine. Try to incorporate anxiety-reducing activities instead like taking a walk in nature, going to the gym, or practicing deep breathing and mindfulness
  • Increase the intensity of your physical activity. Any aerobic activity can reduce anxiety, but the higher the intensity of exercise, the greater the effects on anxiety.

However, it is also vital to recognize that some may find it challenging to navigate the path to recovery on their own. If you or someone you know is struggling to cope with the aftermath of a traumatic event, it is a wise decision to seek help from a mental health professional. These experts are trained to provide the guidance and support needed to navigate the healing process.

If you are uncertain about how to connect with a mental health professional, there are various resources available to assist you. You can reach out to your healthcare provider, explore the valuable resources provided by Mental Health America, or contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and there are people and resources ready to support you during your journey toward healing and resilience.

Lorrie Henderson, Ph.D., MBA, LCSW

Lorrie Henderson, Ph.D., MBA, LCSW is president and CEO of Jewish Family & Children's Service