During these uncertain times, with the United States' involvement in the war, it's natural and normal to feel an uncomfortable sense of anxiety. The Counseling & Wellness Center offers the following information to help you think more clearly about the effects of this fear. Mental health resources for students, faculty, and staff are provided at the end of this article.
Am I in Danger?
The increased level of the warning means that the government is concerned about possible acts of terrorism in the U.S. The nature of terrorism is that it may strike at any time and in any place. Since it is indiscriminate, we cannot predict who might be in danger and when. The vague uncertainty of this violence is intended as a strategic psychological weapon to generate fear among large groups of people. According to statistics, however, the likelihood that you will be the victim of a terrorist act is really quite small.
Is Campus Safe?
Again, terrorism is random and therefore it is impossible to certify that any specific area is altogether safe. However, it is important for you to know that UAB administrators are actively taking logical and sensible steps to ensure your safety. You can help by becoming familiar with any emergency procedures that the campus has established. Be 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. By letting them know about your concerns you can contribute to a safe and appropriate resolution.
Stress, Fear, and Anxiety
It is normal to feel nervous and anxious when life is uncertain. In addition to your regular stresses (school, work, relationships, etc.), you are hearing more about terrorism and war. Anxiety, stress and fear are natural human emotions that motivate the body and mind to prepare and protect. Prolonged anxiety, however, can result in damaging physical and psychological effects. Even though today's headlines may be very disturbing, it's important that you try to maintain a balanced lifestyle. Allow your anxiety to direct you toward making healthy and safe choices. Don’t let distress to overwhelm you.
Signs of Distress
Occasionally people become weighed down by worries and fears. When a person feels overwhelmed by his or her anxiety it can lead to unhealthy behaviors. Some signs that you may be feeling out of control or overwhelmed include (but are not limited to):
- Change in sleeping patterns.
Extremes of being unable to sleep or constantly sleeping may be a sign of overwhelming distress.
- Using substances to control emotions.
This includes alcohol, illegal drugs, food, and even prescription medication. Craving a substance in order to manage your emotions can be a dangerous coping strategy.
- Mood swings.
Dramatic mood swings may be an indicator of overwhelming anxiety and ineffective coping.
- Change in eating behaviors.
Like sleep, you might find yourself behaving at one extreme or the other. Either you may be eating nothing, very little, or feel a need to eat unusually large amounts of food.
- Physical changes.
If you are sweating a lot or you feel your heart racing, you may be experiencing anxiety-related panic. Sometimes when people feel overly anxious they may feel ill and seek out medical attention.
If you are feeling "out of sorts" it's a good idea to check with a health professional. Significant changes in your behavior may be a sign that distress 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 these uncomfortable emotions. This is a sign that you may need help finding other ways to cope more effectively.
Resources for Managing Anxiety
If you believe that your levels of anxiety are causing you too much distress and damaging your health, consider doing something about it. Taking care of yourself is essential. Learning stress reduction strategies are a good way to begin getting a sense of control in your life. These include relaxation techniques and breathing exercises, as well as good nutrition, exercise, and getting plenty of rest. However, if you are doing these things and still feeling overwhelmed, it would be good to talk with someone. Talking with friends can help, but it may also be important to discuss how you are feeling with a counselor.
Looking Out for Your Friends
Extreme stress and anxiety affects others, too. People sometimes need friends and family to help identify these symptoms. If you believe a friend is having trouble coping with fear and anxiety, there are things you can do to assist. Of course, talking can help. You can also share this article with them. However, it may be a good idea to talk with a counselor to figure out the best way to intervene. Second-hand stress can be hard to deal with, too!
Counseling for UAB Students:
Call the Counseling & Wellness Center at (205) 934-5816 or the Women's Center at (205) 934-6946. Enrolled UAB students are eligible for individual, couples, and group counseling at no cost. Crisis walk-in hours are available to students every day. Office hours are from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday.
The Crisis Center (323-7777) is a 24-hour telephone crisis counseling resource in the Birmingham area.
Campus Counseling Center (934-3779) is a private, not-for-profit service organization that provides free confidential counseling for UAB students, employees and the community.
UAB Student Health Services
Student Health Services (934-3580) provides care for the medical needs of UAB students, including the prevention of illness, treatment of disease or injury, or counseling/advice. UAB students who have VIVA insurance can receive medical care from a medical doctor or nurse practitioner. Walk-in times are available. Student Health Services is open 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday -Thursday and 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Friday, except for official University holidays.
For Faculty, Staff and Administrators:
The Resource Center (934-2281) is a free service for the employees and families at UAB, as well as contractors. They offer an assistance and counseling program designed to provide resources for resolving work-related and personal problems. They provide individual, couples, and family counseling to assist in clarifying issues, exploring options, and finding solutions. They are located at 521 Medical Towers, 1717 11th Ave. South.