Angst Over World Events: Is it Time to Turn Off the TV?

Do you find yourself watching continuous news coverage about the conflict in Iraq, and neglecting to enjoy a beautiful day outside? Or are do you worry about smallpox , and then go home for dinner and eat a lot of fried chicken in an effort to feel better?

Managing your anxiety as world events unfold can be challenging. Katie Rhodes, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., clinical social worker was invited to the UTC campus this week to offer concrete suggestions for coping with fears.

"Try not to think about everything as a catastrophe. When we experience anxiety, we tend to see only what is going wrong, not what is going right," Rhodes said. Opening up to others is also important, she said. "When people talk about the events in the Middle East, it creates community. It is important to share ideas," Rhodes said.

Anxious feelings and behavior can be controlled, and Rhodes suggests you start to generate positive thoughts at your workplace. Photos of family and friends, plants, or a special coffee cup can help to positively modify your environment. Moving away from high carbohydrates with additional salt and sugar is another way to feel better physically.

"Many people ‘stress eat. ‘ Take a look at your diet, and try to eat protein with your breakfast so that it stays with you longer. Substitute fruit snacks or power bars instead of reaching for candy bars," Rhodes suggested.

Do you feel your jaw tense, or does your neck ache after a day of worry? Progressive relaxation efforts are helpful. Mentally guide yourself by tensing your face, hold it for ten seconds, and release. Yawn extra wide, hold it, and release. Clench your hands, hold it, and release. "Some people are not used to feeling relaxed and do not like the feeling of not being in control. We need to get used to experiencing a more relaxed state," Rhodes said.

If anxiety causes you to be unsure if you have turned off the iron or set your alarm clock because you are preoccupied with other thoughts, stop and make a mental note that you have completed the action. Try this: mentally repeat several times "I locked the door," and it may be easier to remember that you have completed the task.

If you notice your anxiety continues more than six weeks, and the anxiety is interfering with your life and activities, you may be interested in seeking professional help. Tennessee state employees who work at least 75 percent time are entitled to six free sessions with a therapist, and at UTC employees may call United Behavioral Health, 1-877-237-8574 for more information. UTC Students who seek professional help are encouraged to make an appointment with the Counseling and Career Planning Center, 425-4438.