Coping with Fear of Violent Attacks and Terrorism

Article | March 2016

Coping with Fear of Violent Attacks and Terrorism

Sometimes it seems like the world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place. We hear about bombings in public places, random shootings, and other reports of unpredictable, senseless violence against innocent people. It’s made us more aware of our vulnerability. Our fears are renewed with each report of yet another violent attack.

As a result, many of us have increased anxiety and fear as we go about our daily lives. If this sense of fear is ongoing, it can make it difficult to concentrate at work. It can result in stress-related illnesses and affect our quality of life.

This article offers some coping strategies if you are feeling increased fear as a result of violence being discussed in the media or happening in your community. Those who have been directly impacted may want to seek professional help or support services. These services can be accessed through your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Check with your employer or human resources department for more information.

Coping with fear

  • Understand what is being done to protect your community. The more we know about the danger, the more effective steps we can take to help minimize our risk. Make sure that you are getting your information from a reputable source, such as the Department of Homeland Security. Be sure to follow all directions from state and local authorities, including law enforcement.

  • Be aware, but not fearful. Awareness – paying attention to your surroundings, and noticing anything unusual about people and their behavior – is helpful. Being constantly fearful is not helpful. It can actually limit awareness. Fear is a focus on what could happen, which can leave you less aware of what is happening. A sudden feeling of fear is an important clue that something may be wrong. If you are always fearful, that sudden feeling can’t emerge as a clue.

  • Focus on what you do have control over. The images we see, the stories we hear, and our own thoughts about violence can increase our anxiety. The average person may believe there is little they can do to avoid potential violence. While we can’t control the bigger picture, we can control things in our own lives that might reduce our risk of being victims. For example, you might develop a safety plan for you and your family. You could discuss how to react in the face of danger and how to seek shelter.

  • Balance your thoughts. When feeling overwhelmed by tragic events, it’s hard see the good in the world. Try to balance feelings of pessimism by remembering the people and times in your life that have been positive and comforting. Recall times in history when change has happened for the better. Finding this balance can broaden how you see the world. This can be empowering and give you courage during a difficult time.

  • Minimize your exposure to news media. Once you have gotten the facts, don’t keep watching replays of events. While it’s important to stay informed, constant exposure may add to feelings of distress. Try to give yourself a break from the tragedy and thoughts and feelings stirred up by emotional news stories.

  • Maintain a normal routine and lifestyle as much as possible. This encourages us to feel normal by acting normal.

  • Allow your feelings. If you notice that you are having strong feelings, acknowledge them. Don’t try to ignore or deny them. It may be helpful to talk about your fears or concerns with people who support you. We get emotional support by giving voice to and sharing our concerns.

  • Feeling physically strong can help you feel emotionally strong. Make sure you get enough rest. Eat a healthy diet. Exercise and being physically active can reduce stress. Avoid alcohol and drugs.

  • Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. These can help you get control over the physical symptoms of anxiety.

Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is here to help

For many people, the strategies mentioned above may be enough to cope. However, at times an individual may have difficulty managing intense reactions. If this is the case, you can call your EAP and ask for a telephonic consult. You will be connected to a trained mental health professional. You can then discuss a plan for moving forward and learning more coping skills. It’s important to reach out and get help if you feel fear is interfering with your daily life. Check with your employer or human resources department for more information.

This material is provided by Cigna for informational/educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical/clinical advice. Only a health care professional can make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment plan. For more information about your behavioral health coverage, you can call the customer service or the behavioral health telephone number listed on your health care identification card.