A few years ago, when I lived in Virginia we faced 9/11 with fear and uncertainty. I remember the absolute silence in the skies as all planes were grounded. I remember worrying about the friend of ours who worked at the Pentagon and the hours it took to find out whether he was still alive or not. I remember with cold, crystal clarity the sickening realization that my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and nephew were originally going to fly out that morning, but changed their flights to later in the day because my sister-in-law didn’t want to have to get up so early.
I remember how that fear and uncertainty ate at me for months. Then just a little over a year later – we dealt with the sniper that hunted throughout Northern Virginia and Maryland. I was terrified to take my daughter out anywhere. The shootings began around our anniversary and for the next three weeks – I wouldn’t travel anywhere with her, I wouldn’t put her in the line of fire. I thought my stomach would eat itself inside out with that fear.
The only thing that helped me get through those days – seriously – was my exercise program.
Too often when we are drowning in intense feelings like fear, despair and hopelessness – we turn to unhealthy sources to provide relief for our pain. Some people drink. Some turn to drugs. Others bury themselves in their work and still others eat. But when you exercise – when you get on the treadmill and you start outrunning your demons, or the exercise bike and you leave them in the dust – or you ride your horse and you let your body fall into sync with the animal in graceful motion — you are taking control again.
Being productive and giving yourself this control can do wonders for alleviating these horrible feelings. When we see disasters on television – horrible sights such as Virginia Tech or another roadside bombing in Iraq or Afghanistan or hear about plots to blow up airports – it’s enough to make you wonder why should we keep going – why?
Don’t look for a way to disguise or bury the pain and the fear in some seemingly quick fix way. Don’t give up. Take control, empower yourself and better yourself physically – it will help reduce your anxiety and stress, it will make you stronger and you will be doing a justice in a world where fear and terror are the goals of our worst enemies.
Don’t let them win. Honor our troops, honor those who have fallen and honor the victims – by not allowing yourself to become one.
How do you cope with stress and anxiety related to the traumas in our world?