Q&A on stress and anxiety

nahariya runs for cover (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
nahariya runs for cover
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Yossi: I live up north. In recent days I have been feeling chest pressure, dizziness accompanied with a strong sense of fear. I am a healthy young man. Am I suffering from trauma? I would rather not use medication.
Trauma Center: Chest pressure, dizziness and fear can all be connected and can be signs of stress. Our body has an innate way to let us know that we are in danger and it helps us recruit our strength. When we actually don't need to use that energy it seems to get stuck and we feel sometimes that our bodies stay hyper. If this is the case, then some form of relaxation can be a good solution. If the pressure in your chest remains strong or gets stronger, please consult your physician.
Chaim: Any quick tips to relieve stress? My wife and I are worried - feel like there is no safe place.
Miriam: My son is serving up north. Since this started, I feel great pressure. I've heard about breathing exercises that could help. What can you tell me about the breathing aspect of dealing with stress?
Trauma Center: Chaim and Miriam: The current situation is very stressful and most people feel that both in their minds and in their bodies. Breathing is known to be affected by stress and people tend to feel short of breath or that their their breathing is heavier than usual. Relieving stress through relaxation exercises is certainly an effective way to cope. There are many exercises available and many people can do them on their own. Click here for detailed instructions from our website.
Dennis: My 5-year-old kid refuses to sleep alone. On the one hand, these are stressful days, on the other hand, I want him to learn how to cope and not get used to sleeping with us. What do you suggest?
Trauma Center: You are saying "these are stressful days" and you are right. This influences both adults and children. We know that when parents are experiencing stressful days, this always influences the children and they often react by becoming more clinging, fearful, they cry more and sometimes regress to earlier patterns of behavior, which they already grew out of. The best thing we can do for our children is to try and bring yourself to a relaxed state more often during your day.
It is important to spend time together with your child and accept the clinging behavior as a fact. Then you will have to find a balance that works for you between giving in part of the time and to some of the behaviors and not avoiding to set limits to it on the other hand.
Noam: I have taken the anti-depressant Seroxat for five years. It did wanders for me, an absolute lifesaver. I stopped several months ago but now I feel the stress coming back up. Should I start taking medication again?
Trauma Center: Medication is not something that you should decide upon by yourself. Certainly with antidepressant medication, we would advise you to consult with the doctor who prescribed the medicine. At the same time, people sometimes confuse feelings of distress that arise in the present emergency situation with previous problems they had and think that it is the same. In order to help yourself not get into depression, we advise to participate in physical activity. Even in the shelter you can do some stretching and push-ups and the like to activate your body.
Rena: I think my husband is suffering more anxiety than he realizes right now. He's irritable, not sleeping well, etc. I don't blame him at all, but feel disconnected from him, and that we're not going through this together. I feel I can't turn to him for support myself. What should I do?
Trauma Center: I can understand that it's not easy for you to feel that you cannot depend on your husband's support at a time like this. The way different people cope with high stress are diverse and often there is a difference between men and women. What feels good for the one, may feel not feel good at all for someone else. It may be good to tell him in the same non-judgemental way you wrote it, that you feel that for you it's too bad that you can't go through this situation together and help each other. Also it may be helpful for you to look for support with friends and family, and do things that make you feel good or give you a good feeling about yourself.
Avi: Do you know of any good group therapy in Jerusalem area for problems of anxiety?
Trauma Center: There are good centers for treatment of anxiety, although not all of them do group treatment. Hadassah Hospital (02-5661065) has a center for the Treatment of Anxiety in the center of town. The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma (02-6449666) serves both people in crisis and people who suffer from post-traumatic problems.
Jay: The other day I was suddenly struck by crazy heart beat, sweating, dizziness. Did I have a panic attack? Can this happen again?
Trauma Center: It sounds as a serious possibility that you may have had a panic attack. Often this also goes with a feeling of losing control and some people feel that they "go crazy". Another possible symptom is difficulties in breathing, a feeling that you don't get enough air. These all can be symptoms of anxiety. Such symptoms are common in times of stress when we are feeling threatened. It would be important to think what brought it on. Did it occur in a specific situation, which aroused fear in you? If you can detect that, you might have a clue to what your sensitive points are. If you find those triggers and face them (and not avoid them) you have a good chance to prevent the recurrence. Relaxation techniques also are helpful to prevent panic attacks. Some instructions for relaxation you find on our website:
Susan: I have family coming over from UK soon. I don't know if they would deal well with this situation. I live in the center of the country. What would you tell those who wish to visit?
Trauma Center: First of all you should know that people very often cope much better with emergency situations than you would expect if you only know them in other circumstances.
But the decision should, of course, be theirs. We advise to give them a real picture of what your life looks like and of how you are dealing with it. This can include how their stay would be and then it is up to them whether or not to make a change in their plans. It is also quite OK to take into account what it would be like for you to have them around. Would it provide you with support, or would you be feeling you have to worry about them as well? All of this can be of your decision on what you would advice them.
Naomi: My son is in Israel now. I am freaking out here. He won't come back despite my pleas. Should i push him hard to come back or trust him?
Trauma Center: It is quite understandable that you cannot stand your son being in a war situation. At the same time there is a sense of unity while in an emergency situation, that makes it really difficult for people to leave. For a more specific answer we would have to know more about your son and the circumstances. At face value, we would advise you to tell him how you feel and on the other hand also tell him you respect whatever his decision will be. You could also express curiosity about what his reasons are to stay here. If he answers this may make it easier for you to understand his point of view and respect it. It is clear that you yourself are going through a difficult period. Try to get support from friends and know that the way you take care of yourself remains an example of how your children will do that.