University Counseling Center
Terror Alerts, Anxiety, and Resources
It’s natural and normal to be feeling a high-level of anxiety in these uncertain times. Here are some thoughts on terror threats and anxiety.
The National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS)
The new National Terrorism Advisory System replaces the Homeland Security Advisory System that has been in place since 2002. The National Terrorism Advisory System, or NTAS, will include information specific to the particular credible threat, and will not use a color-coded scale.
When there is credible information about a threat, an NTAS Alert will be shared with the American public. It may include specific information, if available, about the nature of the threat, including the geographic region, mode of transportation, or critical infrastructure potentially affected by the threat, as well as steps that individuals and communities can take to protect themselves and help prevent, mitigate or respond to the threat. The advisory will clearly indicate whether the threat is Elevated, if we have no specific information about the timing or location, or Imminent, if we believe the threat is impending or very soon.
Am I in Danger?
The nature of terrorism is that terror groups can strike at any time in any place. The random nature of terrorism means that we cannot say who is in specific danger at any time. This randomness is meant as a psychological weapon designed to generate fear among a large group of people. According to statistics, the likelihood that you will be the victim of terrorist act is really quite low.
Is Campus Safe?
Again, terrorism is random and therefore it is hard to say that any specific area is dangerous or safe. However, it is important for you to know that administrators on campus are being proactive and taking logical and sensible steps to ensure campus safety. You can help by being aware and cooperating with campus officials. Make sure you are familiar with any emergency procedures that your campus has in place. You can also help administrators by being aware of your surroundings and reporting anything that seems suspicious or out of the ordinary. Campus officials are trained to respond to a wide variety of scenarios and situations. Letting a campus official know about something suspicious will ensure that the proper authorities will handle any situation.
Stress, Fear and Anxiety
It is very normal to feel nervous and anxious these days. In addition to your regular stresses (school, work, relationships, etc.) you are hearing about terror alerts and possible war. Anxiety, stress and fear are natural human reactions that help the body and mind prepare for extreme situations. Prolonged anxiety can have negative effects on a person. While today’s headlines are frightening and disturbing, it’s important that you try to keep things in perspective. Allow your anxiety to direct you into making good and safe choices but it’s important to ensure that your anxiety does not overwhelm you.
When Anxiety Overwhelms You
Occasionally, people find that their anxiety overwhelms them. When someone feels overwhelmed by his or her anxiety it can lead to negative and destructive behaviors. Some signs that you are being overwhelmed include (but are not limited to):
- A change in sleeping patterns. Either being unable to sleep or, finding yourself always sleeping.
- Using substances to manage emotions. This includes alcohol, illegal drugs, food and even prescription medication. Craving a substance in order to manage your emotions can be a dangerous behavior.
- Dramatic mood swings may also be an indicator of overwhelming anxiety
- Change in eating behaviors. Like sleep, you might find yourself at one extreme or the other. Either eating nothing, very little or eating large amounts of food.
- Physical changes. If you find yourself sweating or you feel your heart racing, you may be overwhelmed by anxiety. Sometimes when we feel overly anxious we feel ill and feel like we require medical attention.
If you are feeling “out of sorts” it’s always a good idea to check with a health professional. A good rule of thumb is that a significant change in your behavior may be a sign that your anxiety is overwhelming you. If you find yourself making choices you might not normally make, or doing things you might not normally do, you may be reacting to your anxiety. This is a sign that you may need some help managing your anxiety.
Resources for Managing Your Anxiety
If you feel that anxiety is getting the best of you and having a negative effect on your well being, you should do something about it. Standard stress reduction techniques are always a good idea. These include eating well, exercising and getting plenty of good rest. In general, paying attention to your body and mind and responding to your needs are important. However, if you’re experiencing significant behavioral changes it’s also a good to talk with someone about how you’re feeling. Of course, talking to friends is a good idea, but it is also important that you talk with a trained professional.
Looking Out for Your Friends
Sometimes when we are experiencing extreme stress and anxiety it is hard to see the negative behaviors we are inflicting upon ourselves. When this happens we rely on friends and family to help us recognize the situation. If you think one of your friends is having trouble managing his or her anxiety you should take steps to help. Of course, talking with them is a good idea; perhaps you can even share this article with them. However, it’s also a good idea to let a campus professional know about your friend. Campus professionals can help you decide what’s in the best interest of your friend.
Article prepared by PaperClip Communications – www.Paper-Clip.com. Please photocopy and distribute as needed.
Compiled by Marcia Eisenberg for the University Counseling Center (Homeland Security Advisory System information updated by Judy Kaester)