A Publication of WTVP

The other day, a woman showed me a poem she had written called “The End is Near.” I’m sharing the beginning of her work with you:

“All the news people and commentators
Warn of more “imminent” attacks to come…
On sullen nights
To decide how much we should be told; need to know;
Should be aware of; and what color is the code?
Why I ask?
We have nowhere to run!
There is pressure everywhere… on everyone.”

As a mental health counselor, I have to admit I’ve seen a change in the mental status of many people I’ve encountered in the last few years. It seems as if many people are living at a low-grade anxiety level. Listening to people, you can hear the anxiety in their voices and see it in their behaviors. People seem to be a little “on edge,” uncertain about what might occur at any moment. Researchers may suggest we all are suffering from low-grade post-traumatic stress disorder. Perhaps they are correct when we realize how terrorism, world conflicts, global warming and economic uncertainty have made changes in our lives.

But there also seems to be other changes. For a short period of time people appeared to be more grateful for what they had and for the loved ones in their lives. For a month or two after 9-11 people were smiling at strangers, reaching out to people and being more open and loving with their emotions. But something has changed once again. People appear to be closing down, hardening their hearts and going back to emotional isolation.

If we are to survive the current times we need to continue to keep ourselves balanced and focused on the positive. We need to see the possibilities for change and betterment in our world. We must reach out to others, express gratitude and love and continue to allow our hearts to be open to friends and family. We can’t afford closing down and isolation.

Here are seven ways to help lower your anxiety level:

  1. Breathe. One thing that most people forget during times of anxiety is to breathe! Most of us take shallow breaths, which only hinders our relaxation. Be mindful of taking deep full breaths to lower your anxiety level.
  2. Exercise. This can’t be stated often enough! Exercising helps lower stress and anxiety levels and helps us feel better about our well-being and ourselves.
  3. Mindfulness. During the day be mindful of what you are doing and how your thoughts reflect your perceptions. If you think things are frustrating and upsetting, your body will react to the stressful response and tense your muscles. Try to focus on relaxing thoughts and look for the positive in the situation. Your mind does control your perception of events.
  4. Gratefulness. Expressing love and compassion to others can never be done too much. Be aware of what you have to be grateful for in your life and make sure you acknowledge your feelings to those around you.
  5. Environment. Surround yourself with relaxing environments such as peaceful music, soothing conversation and television that is not filled with violence. You’d be amazed how much your environment affects your anxiety level.
  6. Give. Remember there are others who need your assistance. Get involved in your community and help make lasting changes.
  7. Reach out. Talk with others about your feelings and seek professional assistance if needed.

There is pressure everywhere and it is on everyone—but we can control our response to the pressure. We have the power to learn from the events surrounding us and continue to be focused on the most important element of life—love!

Dr. Miller is the founder and director of Peoria’s Joy Miller & Associates. She is an internationally-known licensed psychotherapist, professional trainer and author. She has been professionally involved in the mental health field for 25 years and is a part-time instructor at Bradley University. For more information on mental health visit tpw