Build Resilience to Cope With Fears From Terrorists

Most people cherish life’s simple things. The sound of birds in the morning, a goodbye kiss before the kids leave for school or a cup of tea makes day-to-day life rich, worthwhile and predictable. Current events, for many, have cast a shadow upon the simple things. The very real threat of terrorism’s random violence and unpredictability can disrupt the daily flow of life and cast a shadow over everything, from planning a trip to getting ready for work, if you let it.

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines terrorism as a threat to society, earmarked by fear, helplessness and the sense of being held hostage to those emotions. Terrorism’s irrationality leaves individuals scrambling to make sense of the senseless and find courage to enjoy and participate in life. 

Terrorism is not new, but of course, ratcheted up many rungs after September 11. The world was affected that day, but nowhere more than in New York City. After 9/11, New York did not close down and its people did not hide behind closed doors. What helped many New Yorkers persevere in the face of repugnant brutality was resilience.

What is Resilience and How Can it Help?

Resilience, a pillar of positive psychology, is the ability to rally from setback and the refusal to be defeated by even the hardest of times. Resiliency is the knowledge that you can and will handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a characteristic that can be acquired over time, or hard-won in the face of monstrous adversity. In some individuals, it manifests as grit and determination. In others, resiliency manifests as the ability to reach out to others for strength. Resilience can earmark an individual, a family, a community or a nation. Always beneficial, it is especially necessary now and will remain so for some time to come.  

How Can I Build Resilience?

The APA recommends several resilience-building steps. These include:

Maintain and create strong connections – Connecting with family members and your community can eliminate feelings of helplessness and provide stability.   

Ask for help and accept it when offered – Reaching out to others can provide feelings of optimism and comfort. When you can’t find your own strength, connecting with people who can, may provide resilience.

Reach out to others who need it – Helping others is empowering and may support both of you to find or regain inner strength.  

Maintain hope and perspective – For every warped individual who thinks terrorism is the answer, there’s a multitude of others, committed to peace and understanding. Holding onto belief in the goodness of people can help.

Meditate, do yoga or build a spiritual practice – For some, it may be as simple as journaling. For others, it may be attending a house of worship regularly. Any way you can find and maintain inner peace and a sense of calm is the right way for you.    

Turn Off the Media Blitz

The news never stops and, when something bad happens, neither does our inhalation of it. As reported in the Jerusalem Post’s Health & Science section, eliminating exposure to nonstop news can help maintain calm and reduce anxiety about terrorism. The more anxious you feel, the less likely you are to build strength or resilience. Recommendations include:

  • Stay informed but don’t check news updates incessantly
  • Opt for radio updates instead of TV to eliminate upsetting visual elements about attacks
  • Reduce or eliminate social media
  • Keep small children away from social media and television news

Be Prepared

Terrorism’s goal is to chain individuals and nations with fear. Giving into that fear boxes people in, making their lives increasingly small. One of the ways to combat this is by being prepared. The American Red Cross recommends creating a disaster plan for yourself and your family. Knowing what to do in the face of emergency can help you remain calm, before, during and after an attack, should one occur.  

The threat of terrorism isn’t likely to go away any time soon. After 9/11, New Yorkers banded together in the face of adversity and went on with their lives. That same resilience was apparent in San Bernardino, Paris, Newtown, Colorado Springs and other places, unfortunately, too numerous to list. Giving up is easy, but as a nation, we’re better than that. You will get through this. And, so will America.