Resilience in a Time of War:

Adapting to War-Time Stress


The news about war can seem overwhelming. You may have a friend in the reserves, or you may have a relative in the military. With the threat of terrorism, the war seems very close to home.

You keep hearing about being prepared for war – is there something you can do to prepare mentally? The good news is that you can learn the skills of resilience – the ability to adapt well in the face of hard times; disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes or fires; tragedy; threats; or even high stress.

What are some tips that can help you learn resilience? As you use these tips, keep in mind that each person’s journey along the road to resilience will be different – what works for you may not work for your friends.


10 Tips in a Time of War

1. Talk About It. Talk with your friends and family members. Don’t be afraid to express your opinion, even if your parent or friend takes the opposite view. Ask questions and listen to the answers. And, understand that some people may express hatred for people from a certain country or region – it doesn’t mean that you have to. Get connected to your community, whether it’s as part of a faith community, a residence hall, or some other group—find a way to connect with others.

2. Turn It Off. You want to stay informed – you may even have homework that requires you to watch the news. Being well-informed can also help you feel more in control. But try to limit the amount of news you take in, especially television. Watching a news report once informs you; watching graphic images over and over again just adds to the stress and contributes no new knowledge.

3. Cut Yourself Some Slack. The stresses of war may heighten daily stresses. Academic pressures and relationship concerns may pile on anxiety about war and terrorism. Be aware of this and go a little easier on yourself. Schedule some time for relaxation and recreation.

4. Create A No-War Zone. Make your room or apartment a “no war zone” — home should be a haven free from the stress and anxieties associated with war. Understand that your family and friends are under war-time stresses as well and may want to spend a little more time than usual with you.

5. Stick To The Program. During a time of war, map out a routine and stick to it. Maintain that give you a sense of stability, whether it’s the things you do after class, going out to lunch, or have a nightly phone call with a friend.

6. Take Care Of Yourself. Be sure to take of yourself – physically, mentally and spiritually. And get sleep. If you don’t, you may be more grouchy and nervous at a time when you have to stay sharp. Use exercise, meditation, meaningful reading, and recreation to help you stay centered.

7. Have a plan. Having an emergency plan in place will help you feel in control and prepared for the unexpected. Establish a clear plan for how you, your family and friends will respond and connect in the event of a crisis. If some dangerous event is reported anywhere close you, know that family and friends will be worried about you, call them!

8. Express Yourself. War can bring up a bunch of conflicting emotions, but sometimes, it’s just too hard to talk to someone about what you’re feeling. If talking isn’t working, do something else to capture your emotions like start a journal, or create art. You may find it helpful to advocate for your point of view on national policies. You can write letters, sign petitions to help your voice be heard.

9. Help Somebody. Nothing gets your mind off your own problems like solving someone else’s. Try volunteering in your community or at your school, cleaning-up around the house or apartment, or helping a friend with his or her homework.

10. Put Things In Perspective. War may be all anyone is talking about now. But eventually, wars end. If you’re worried about whether you’ve got what it takes to get through this, think back on a time when you faced up to your fears, perhaps it was dealing with some personal crisis. Learn some relaxation techniques, whether it’s thinking of a particular song in times of stress, or just taking a deep breath to calm down. Think about the important things that have stayed the same, even while the outside world is changing. When you talk about bad times, make sure you talk about good times as well.

You can learn resilience. But just because you learn resilience doesn’t mean you won’t feel stressed or anxious. You might have times when you still feel very upset – you can get through it. Resilience is a journey, and each person will take his or her own time along the way. You may benefit from some of the resilience tips above, while some of your friends may benefit from others. The skills of resilience you learn in a time of war will be useful even after war, and they are good skills to have every day.

For many, using their own resources and the kinds of help described above may be sufficient for building resilience in a time of war. At times, however, an individual might get stuck or have difficulty making progress on the road to resilience. If you would like to talk to someone, you may drop by the URI Counseling Center, 217 Roosevelt Hall, or call 874-2288. To feel distress regarding war and conflict is normal. Many people can be helpful. You may prefer to talk to a trusted faculty member, residence hall director, chaplain, or some other friend or mentor whom you trust. At URI we are lucky to be part of a strong and vibrant community. Reach out for help—and to help someone else!

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