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Finding peace of mind

Published 10:03 am, Monday, August 25, 2014
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Do you follow world news with dread these days? If so, you aren't alone. Much of the world is unstable, from Ukraine to the Middle East and beyond. A friend recently reminded me that World War I began because of one gunshot -- the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Sarajevo. In this world of advanced technology, how little would it take to start World War III? This was certainly not a welcomed reminder but one that's given me food for thought.

How do we find the strength to plough ahead when institutions and circumstances we've taken for granted appear to be crumbling beneath our feet? How do we find peace of mind while living in an uncertain world?

I regularly remind folks that fear is a normal reaction to life-threatening events, and that living in denial about the realities we face isn't the answer. That said, we must find a way to live with fear while moving forward, and here are some suggestions about how to do so:

Become a student of history: If you've had the privilege of speaking with a veteran of war or a Holocaust survivor, you've already witnessed the phenomenon of resilience against all odds. More recently, remember where you were when you learned about the horror of 9/11. Most Americans thought the world was coming to an end and couldn't imagine a way forward. Yet somehow, we prevailed. The more we understand history, the better able we are to put our fears in context and find a "new normal" in an uncertain world.

Control what you can and let go of what you can't: Most of us can't have a direct impact over world events. That said, there are things each of us can do to make a difference. Why not contribute to, or volunteer for, a cause in which you believe, whether it's helping children in war-torn countries or working to improve the lives of our returning military? At the very least, doing so will change your perspective by affording you a modicum of control.

Find or maintain community: Isolation and fear don't make good bedfellows. So this would be a great time to join a club or organization, or to find a new hobby or sport that involves others. If you are already a member of these, why not step up your involvement? In times of distress it's soothing to be reminded that we aren't alone.

Find faith in something. A belief in something larger than yourself can be of great comfort in uncertain times. I'm not necessarily talking about organized religion, although that is one helpful option. And even if you think of yourself as an agnostic or atheist, chances are good that you believe in something, be it the strength of family or the resilience of the human spirit.

If recent world events have caused you heart palpitations -- literally or figuratively -- you are in good company. Rather than focusing on your fears why not use this time of uncertainty to develop an emotional relief tool kit; one that will get you through the tough times?

Maud Purcell is a psychotherapist, corporate consultant and director of the Life Solution Center of Darien. Email: mpurcell@thelifesolutioncenter.net.