By Pauline Wallin, Ph.D
Clinical Psychologist
Author, "Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-defeating Behavior"

In the weeks and perhaps months to come, the world will be on edge as events unfold in the Middle East and the United Nations. In the USA citizens have been put on "terrorist alert" with instructions to buy duct tape and plastic sheeting to protect themselves. I don't know about you, but it's going to take more than duct tape to make me feel secure.

The worst part about all this is not knowing what's going to happen and when it's going to happen, if at all. It's the unknown that causes much anxiety and worry. You feel anxiety in your body as well as your mind. Symptoms such as irritability, jitteriness, difficulty concentrating, muscle aches, problems with sleeping or eating, and just feeling tense all the time, are all common symptoms of anxiety. (Many of these can also be symptoms of medical disorders; so if you've had them for some time, get checked out by a physician.)

When you are anxious you feel afraid and helpless. Nevertheless, underneath the fear is a profound resiliency. Everyone has this capacity to cope and adapt, but you may not realize it until you have to use it. Ordinary people can be extraordinarily resilient.

Consider, for example, the nine miners who were trapped in a collapsed mine for 77 hours in Pennsylvania last July. In recent news seven other miners were rescued in China after being trapped underground for over 100 hours. These survivors were not superheroes. They were just ordinary people doing their jobs, when life-threatening circumstances forced them to draw on their own resilience.

In other parts of the world Israeli citizens of all ages and all occupations, with various aches and pains as well as other problems, face the possibility of terrorism every day. People in certain countries of Europe, Africa and South America have to cope with harsh weather and limited resources. And most of these people adapt to circumstances without counseling, without any specialized skills or education.

If you would ask any of these people how they cope, they would probably tell you that they just do what they have to do. That is human resiliency in action.

You, too, have built-in resiliency. But you can also strengthen it even more during these anxiety-provoking times. Here are some tips:

1. Keep in touch with family, friends and the community. Isolation can intensify your fears.

2. Find opportunities to help others. Not only will this take your mind off things, but it will also strengthen your connections with other people.

3. Acknowledge that there are some things you can't control. This is nothing new. You have lived with this fact every day of your life, whether you realize it or not. That's what accidents are all about.

4. Keep things in perspective. For example, although over 3,000 people died in the September 11 attack in New York, millions of others were unharmed. It is more likely that you'll be in a car accident than be involved in a terrorist attack. Terrorism hits isolated pockets. No one can predict them all.

5. Have a plan. However, plan only for that which you can control. For example, having extra food and water is a good idea. Set up a system of communication with family members, including a back-up system should the first one fail. Having a plan helps you feel more in control.

6. Focus on positive things in the world. This will help keep you optimistic. Optimism is one of the best antidotes to the type of anxiety that people are experiencing now.

7. Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep and exercise. Your mind and body will be better equipped to cope with whatever comes along.

8. If you are having serious trouble sleeping or eating, you may be one of the small percentage of people who can benefit from professional help. Consult a medical doctor or mental health professional.

9. All the talk about terrorism has forced people to face their own mortality. While this is not a pleasant thought, you can use this knowledge to make the most of every day. No one anywhere has the assurance of tomorrow, but you do have this moment to live to its fullest.

Author's Bio: 

Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Camp Hill, PA, and author of "Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-defeating Behavior" (Beyond Words Publishing, 2001)Visit for more information, and subscribe to her free, monthly Inner Brat Newsletter.