Early one morning in 1991, I called my mother, who was living in Florida at the time. The Persian Gulf War had started, and CNN was televising everything; Operation Desert Storm was being broadcast live and in color right into the sanctity of her living room.
I asked her how everything was going, and she started to cry and had an unmistakable fear in her voice. I knew at that moment America’s first live-for-prime-time war was affecting my mother’s emotions and overall health.
The first thing I said to her was, “Mom, turn your television off.” I later discovered she had spent countless hours and days in front of the TV watching the war. It literally paralyzed her to the point where she did not want to leave the house. Concern and worry about the unknown future had a grip on Mom and wouldn’t let go.
I remember a similar feeling when I was in college. In 1982, seven people in the Chicago area died from what was discovered to be an apparent tampering with Tylenol. Of course, these incidents led to reforms in packaging of all over-the-counter medications today. However, the fear I felt at that time was overwhelming. I remember asking my father, “How will we know if anything is safe anymore?”
Fast-forward to this past week and the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Once again, live 24-hour coverage of what happened and commentaries on where do we go from here. 9/11, the Aurora theater, Sandy Hook Elementary and on and on … it can be too much for some to handle, particularly our older adults. Stress from watching these events over and over, and the anxiety and fear of not knowing what is going to happen next, is all too real.
So what can you do? The world is full of more good than bad. Take time to remember all the good that is in your life. We are only kidding ourselves if we think we have everything under control. It is better to be occasionally cheated than perpetually suspicious. No one wants to live like that.
Sometimes, writing your thoughts down on paper — journaling as some call it — is a good way to work out the fears and frustrations in your life. Who knows — you may end up writing a book and helping someone else.
Eat well, exercise and get your rest. Stress loses its grip when your body is fit and ready to go. Even light exercise makes you breathe harder and deeper. Breathing in itself can relieve stress; it also keeps you alive.
Go to your local worship center and pray with other folks who are feeling much like you. Give your issues over to God; he is much more capable of handling them than you are. I learned that one the hard way.
Develop and keep a routine, and don’t let the events of the day get in the way. And for Pete’s sake, turn your television off. There’s a good book out there waiting to be read.
One last thing. The world does seem to get scarier as we age. Make frequent visits and/or phone calls to your parents and older folks whenever possible. It will reassure them that the world is a good place, and there is no need to worry.
DeLong is the executive director for The Suites at Station Exchange.