The Wound Is the Place Where the Light Gets In

How to Manage Stress and Anxiety Over the Middle East Crisis

The whole world has been deeply wounded by the recent Israel-Hamas war.  It has profoundly impacted many members of GW and our immediate and extended community. Whether you are touched directly because you have family and/or friends in these areas or witnessing war reports unfolding through various media outlets, it causes incredible amounts of stress and strong emotions—even from afar. 

The Resiliency & Well-being Center is by your side to help you process and cope with these strong emotions, find a place for the light to enter and make the darkness we experience smaller. 

Acknowledge your emotions – they are real and valid

It starts with giving yourself permission to feel what you feel without judging, suppressing, minimizing, or amplifying. You owe yourself grace and space to be real in your grief, anger, sadness, guilt, or fear. Identifying your feelings is the first step in addressing them. 

Words have power – frame the messages you send inward and outward with mindfulness

Human beings use language to communicate the complexity of their experiences and emotions. Being mindful of how to frame messages you send inward and outward, can be very impactful on your own emotional well-being as well as those around you. Remember, words can heal or they can hurt. 

We are all in the same storm but not in the same boat

Impact of traumatic events can be tricky, as we all respond in our own unique ways. Sometimes distress hits us immediately, and sometimes it can be delayed. Response to trauma can range from profound sadness, anxiety, feeling trapped, helpless and hopeless to anger, shame and guilt, grief, lack of sleep, appetite, and desire to take care of yourself. 

There is no one way to cope and we encourage you to use what works best for you. These coping strategies are your anchor that will keep your boat afloat until the storm passes. 

If you are looking for ideas here are a few: 

•    Take the traumatic event as an opportunity to reconnect with who you are and what you value and believe in;

•    Connect and spend time with people that matter to you.

•    Take extra “me” time.

•    Stick to your routine even if it is hard.

•    Conserve energy and recharge your batteries—don’t deprive yourself from rest, restorative sleep, and nourishment.

•    Engage in comforting and hope promoting rituals (pray, light a candle).

•    Focus on what you CAN control.

•    Allow time to process your feelings.

•    Turn to your faith or higher power.

•    Meditate or do other mind-body exercises like yoga or tai chi.

•    Contribute to what you believe in with your time and effort or through philanthropy.

Narrow down information overload

Informational and sensory overload can take a toll on any of us very quickly. Witnessing violence, destruction, and death in the media can lead to more distressing thoughts, feelings, and physical symptoms and reignite the trauma.  Giving your mind and body a break will help you regain your composure and regroup.  

Choose your sources of information wisely to avoid misinformation and disinformation and ensure they are accurate and factual.

Skip the urge to self-medicate

When we are in high levels of distress it is tempting to numb our feelings with an extra glass of wine or comfort food to manage emotions. These forms of coping can be problematic as they can leave you with the aftermath of other problems when the crisis is over.

Give others grace

It is hard to know what someone else may be experiencing right now. If someone is curt or even rude, try not to take it too personally.

Recognize that this may be an especially difficult time for both the Jewish and Arab members of our community. We are all members of the human race and the GW community. Treat each other with dignity and respect.

Ask for Help.

Sometimes the intensity of what you feel can be too much and it can greatly impact your ability to function and do things you enjoy. It is important to listen to your body and emotions and seek professional support when you need it. 

GW's School of Medicine & Health Sciences and Medical Faculty Associates have a wide range of well-being and employee assistance program resources, such as Headspace, Talkspace, and free counseling sessions. The R&W Center offers individual consults and safe spaces for group support with a licensed clinical professional counselor or other behavioral health professionals.