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Coping With Anniversary Anxiety

The emotional aftershocks of Sept. 11 are being rekindled for many of us this week. Dr. Elizabeth Carll, a trauma psychologist, visits The Early Show to offer advice.

The anniversary of Sept. 11 may result in intense feelings of anxiety and depression, especially for those who lost loved ones, says Dr. Carll. But the routine of work and daily life may provide strength for some to get through the emotions of the anniversary, she says.

"It's a big day, and for those who treat it as a regular day, it may not necessarily be as traumatic as some people envision," says Dr. Carll, noting that other people may participate in community events or watch a lot of the media coverage as a way of coping.

How to cope

"At this juncture, people should seek strength in those things that helped us this time last year. The first year is so difficult because of the 'anniversary' factor all throughout the year," says Dr. Carll. But she also encourages people to find new ways of coping with emotions, especially around important dates like holidays.

Another way of coping for some is recognizing "the importance of things in their life that will help them get through," she says.

And still another is remembering that that though gaining strength from others is okay for a time, friends and family are affected, too. "Families and friends can't be leaned on for many months. That's an indication that you need to seek help," she says.

People are capable of learning ways to adapt in the years to come, says Dr. Carll. "Fear and anxiety are transient emotions, and over time we can learn to see what works to provide relief in times when it waxes and wanes. We have survived a year, and remembering how we have coped helps us cope in the future."

Though there is no cookie cutter solution for any one person when it comes to what is helpful and what is not, Dr. Carll says optimism brings hope "and hope is the catalyst for the energy to make the changes necessary to adapt to a new way of living. Building resilience means teaching someone to have an optimistic outlook in order to make positive changes. There are a number of ways of building strength and resilience in coping with adversity."

The following are just a few:

  1. Developing Supportive Relationships - connections with supportive family, friends, community organizations (civic/religious/charitable),
  2. Maintaining Hopefulness - optimistic outlook, keeping things in perspective to manage anxiety
  3. Making decisions/Doing - taking small steps to goals to solve problems, builds confidence