The terrible events of September 11 have left an unbelievable scar on this planet of ours. The family and friends of those who perished last week have not yet been able to recover their loved ones. Because of the destruction involved in the attacks, most will most likely not be able to recover and identify their dead. For them and everybody directly touched, like the survivors, the witnesses and the rescue teams, the grief process will most likely be a long one. Even if you were not directly touched by the attacks but you have trouble sleeping, getting up to go to work, or if you find yourself unable to enjoy your life, do seek help from your doctor or a mental health professional.

For the greatest majority of us however, life has once again taken over: the job, the committees, shopping, etc. We still think and read everything we can about what is happening. We may be more startled than usual with a loud noise or police sirens (I found myself stopping and listening after being close to some construction dynamite noise recently - and I live in Ottawa, Canada. We function, yet there is a lingering uneasiness in the air. Something has changed. We may be a little more on edge. Another layer of stress has been added.

In times like this, you may have started to eat more sweets, or you dropped your exercise program. You are more tired than usual. You may feel very alone. This can happen whether you live in a large metropolitan area or in a small village. On the East coast or in Western Canada.

What can you for yourself? Outwardly, we may all react differently to stress. Inwardly, however, we all have the same needs for security and a sense of belonging. Here are some tips to use in these times of high stress. Take what works for you. Try something you never used before.

- Recognize that you have a right to feel stressed.
- Minimize your non-essential commitments for the next couple of months
- Allow yourself to talk about your feelings
- Ask for what you need from your loved ones, your co-workers, your boss.
- If you need more space and solitude, ask for it
- Focus on My Five Basics:
- get plenty of rest
- get plenty of GOOD food (vegetables, fruits, whole grains)
- get plenty of exercise - regular - preferably daily- it's the best stress buster known to date
- get some fun back in your life - do something pleasurable EVERY DAY - it can be as little as taking time to sit in a quiet back yard for l5 minutes, to taking a long scented bath on a week night, instead of the quick shower, to going dancing (I do), kayaking or any other activity in nature. Take time to make love, instead of staying glued to the evening news.
- do relaxation exercises - simple exercises, or yoga, or meditation.
- Don't make hasty decisions: moving, changing jobs, selling the house, selling your stock. It may very well be that you will do one of the above, but DON'T RUSH. Decisions taken under the influence of fear or adrenaline are usually not the wisest. For now, stick with the Five Basics.
- Don't use chemical substances to medicate your anxiety and your fear. This includes alcohol, illegal drugs or over the counter medications. They are addictive. If you are using prescription medications, educate yourself on the side effects as well as their addictive properties. If your anxiety and fears are such that you need a substance, I suggest you first find a very good mental health practitioner to work with.

Near death experiences like the recent attacks make us re-evaluate our life and our priorities. If you find yourself looking at your priorities, this most likely indicates that you have not lived your life according to your values and have now discovered that what you thought was a value was in fact a need (example: security, money).

What happened was ugly. If we can use any experience, however ugly, to learn and grow, personally and collectively, all was not lost.

Marguerite Tennier, M.A.

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