Conflict overseas leads Blazers to worry about family, friends and their own daily lives
When a Feb 18 CNN news update appears on sophomore Lauren Finkel's television set, her body tenses and her thoughts turn to a topic that lately has captivated much of her attention.
As she listens to the reporter discuss the likelihood of war with Iraq, Finkel cannot contain her anxiety. She thinks about bombings and nuclear warfare. But more than anything else, she considers the fate of her father, a Washington Post reporter who is departing for Kuwait at the end of the week.
For the next few minutes, a steady stream of tears trickles down her cheek, and finally Finkel blurts out, "I don't want him to leave!"
Finkel is not alone in her feelings of anxiety, according to an informal Silver Chips poll of 100 students conducted on Feb 26. Seventy-six percent said they worry about the possibility of war with Iraq.
Although the country's fate is virtually out of students' control, experts agree that individuals can alleviate their anxiety and increase personal levels of safety.
Face the fear
Psychotherapist and clinical social worker Dana Czapanskiy says that it is natural for teens to feel anxious about the possibility of war.
Sophomore Sabrina Shapiro says her fear stems from her sense of helplessness about a changing world. "If someone is going to drop bombs on D.C., there is nothing you can do to stop them. It's just a constant threat that is always in the back of your mind," she says.
Despite the constant threat, she is still able to keep her anxiety under control. "I try to concentrate on other things," Shapiro says. According to Czapanskiy, continuing with daily life is an essential part of coping with fear.
Finkel says that although her anxiety has not significantly affected her daily routines, she has noticed changes in her attitude and in interactions with peers. "I've become more reclusive," she says, shrugging. "But that's because the things that some of my friends talk about seem so trivial now."
Although discussing fears with a supportive friend is generally recommended, Finkel's reluctance to open up to her peers may be an even more therapeutic method of dealing with her situation, according to Czapanskiy.
"For years, I was trained that as a therapist you were supposed to help a patient by having them retell and review the situation in hopes that they would find closure. But research is now showing that sometimes sealing off from the event can be helpful," he explains.
Czapanskiy also recommends that individuals become well informed about the war by reading newspapers and watching a reasonable, though not excessive, amount of television reports. "The more informed you are, the less likely you will be to turn a situation into a catastrophe," he explains.
Dare to prepare
Another effective way to cope with anxiety is to design a plan of action in the event of an attack on the U.S., says Czapanskiy. "It is a good idea to make a plan because a lot of anxiety is alleviated when people shift their fears into action," he says.
Although some Blazers, such as freshman Jessica Harris, have already taken time to review an emergency plan with their family, the Feb 26 poll shows that only 13 percent of Blazers have a predetermined plan of action in case of a homeland attack.
Harris says part of her plan included a special trip with her mother to purchase radios, duct tape, batteries, canned foods and four cases of water.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's website, other important supplies include flashlights, trash bags, whistles, first aid kits, food that can last for at least three days and copies of important documents such as insurance policies and bank account records, which should be sealed in waterproof bags.
Aside from gathering the proper supplies, Czapanskiy says, families must determine what to do if an attack occurs while family members are separated. "An underlying anxiety in teens is a fear of being separated from their families. It's good to decide on a place in-state and out-of-state for relatives to call to let each other know that they are alright," he says.
Finkel's family has already developed a thorough plan of action. And although she says she will still worry about her father, she accepts his decision to leave. "I think my dad is a great journalist, and I'm glad that he will be there to cover the crisis. It's just going to be tough not to worry while he is gone for almost two months," Finkel says.
After a short pause, she continues, "The idea of war is more of a reality now. The fear is starting to hit home."
Jennie Breads. Senior Jennifer Breads is the Managing Health Editor for this year. Aside from writing lots of health stories, Jennifer enjoys playing soccer and lacrosse and she is excited to be part of the Silver Chips team! More »