Lessons on life from living through wartime

In times of crisis, people reach out with unselfish acts of kindness. How can we keep this momentum going?

Finding some sort of control in times of war and uncertainty help to restore feelings of peace and contentment. (photo credit: MCT)
Finding some sort of control in times of war and uncertainty help to restore feelings of peace and contentment.
(photo credit: MCT)
These past several months have been incredibly difficult for most of us here in Israel, and have served as a real reminder that in the blink of an eye, life as we thought we knew it can change.
Life is a journey, but often we get so caught up in reaching our destination that we fail to take the time to appreciate the scenery along the way. Sharing a “protected space” with both family and complete strangers has reminded me that there is so much to be grateful for in this small country of ours.
Watching completely selfless acts of kindness has been such an inspiration and the reason why, among other things, I just can’t imagine living anywhere else. We have come together as a community, whatever our backgrounds, each with our own issues, to be there in every way imaginable – for our soldiers, their families, those from the South, and so many others.
We have so much to be proud of, when we reflect on our own behavior. We have been so much nicer to each other, so much more patient, kind and caring.
Isn’t this the real gift we possess that we have to pass on to others? How do we, as individuals and as a community, keep up the momentum from these past few months? How can we see the challenges that we have all faced as an opportunity to learn about ourselves as individuals, each part of that greater community? How do we find and make the time to do, and care about, the important things in our life? Hopefully, as we begin to detach ourselves from minute-by-minute news updates, we can once again put things into perspective and gain a greater appreciation of just how we would like to spend our time now, as summer draws to a close.
AS YOU attempt to return to your preempted “peacetime” schedule, you may find yourself feeling more physically and emotionally exhausted than you thought you would. After all, the past weeks, no matter how hard you’ve tried, have not been in any way normal.
While you may be resilient, you need to recognize this; so as you get on with putting meaning back into your life, go easy on yourself and your loved ones.
You may find you don’t have lots of free time, and as so many things may have felt outside of your control during the war, you now want to take control of your time – rather than being controlled by its demands.
This may involve making changes within yourself to make each moment count, live your life to the fullest and be the best person you can be. Doing this can strengthen you in every way, enabling you to have a greater appreciation for all you do have and allowing you to find the time to actually enjoy it. While definitely not easy, it will be well worth the investment.
Here are a few thoughts to help you get there.
1. Take responsibility for your actions, and be aware of the role you play in determining the outcome.
While you may not like the results, you have to work to make things different.
2. Don’t assume you can change anyone else, don’t expect others to change and don’t blame others. Your goal is to work on yourself; if you do so successfully, you just may discover that others have changed as a result of your behavior.
3. Make time to do the things that bring you pleasure and decrease your stress. Eliminate the things that don’t as much as possible.
4. Embrace life to the fullest. You generally will regret the things you don’t do, rather than the things you do.
5. You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it. Use past mistakes to grow. Don’t get stuck in a cycle of guilt, as it only prevents you from being future-focused.
You may regret that things were not otherwise but now, you must choose to let it go and successfully make peace with yourself, accept it and move on.
6. Figure out your priorities, get them in order and go after what is important. Your priorities are reflected in how you actually live your life, not in what you’d like to do.
7. Don’t ruminate. Reviewing things over and over again is a waste of time, ruins your sleep, can decrease your energy level, causes anxiety, leads to feeling helpless and is self-destructive.
8. Don’t spend time worrying about things you personally can’t change. Let those worries go! 9. Go to bed each night with a clean slate. Take the time to say whatever you need to say to your loved ones, be there for them and let go of the unimportant “stuff” you may have inadvertently picked up, didn’t let go of or don’t want to assume responsibility for.
10. Take a step back and ask yourself: How would you like to be treated? This can then determine how you choose to respond to others. Sometimes we think we need to give an immediate response to someone, when what we need to do is breathe, count to 10 and de-stress. Don’t react, but instead take time to think things through, reflect, make sense of it all and only then respond in a way that allows you to respect yourself.
11. Make each minute count – don’t count the minutes.
Put yourself in someone else’s place and then ask, What can I do to be helpful? Volunteer.
12. Get things done before the deadline. Don’t procrastinate, because you never know what can come up.
13. Slow down, appreciate what you have and then use your time wisely. It is a gift; don’t waste it.
14. Take time to laugh and have fun. Life has been stressful. Find time before summer is over to do some things you enjoy, by yourself, with your partner or friend, and as a family. Put the positive back into your life.
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra’anana, and author of the book Life’s Journey: Exploring Relationships, Resolving Conflicts. She has written about psychology in The Jerusalem Post since 2000. ludman@netvision.net.il; www.drbatyaludman.com