The Zebra Meets a Terrorist

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “terror” as a state of intense fear. The problem with experiencing terrorist attacks such as today’s on Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament is the lasting physical effect of that stressful event. After experiencing fear, whether as somebody involved in the incident, witnessing it directly, or watching it on the news, we move into a state of anxiety – and this perpetual state of fear lasts longer and causes chronic stress.

The problem is that our bodies respond to fear by activating it for the “fight-or-flight” response. The ability to act quickly in a threatening situation is essential in circumstances such as a terrorist attack. It allows police, for example, to handle the situation quickly and efficiently.

However, when we do not use the body’s mobilized energy for to fight or run, we store that energy inside. And every time we watch the news, we are reminded of the tragic event and our bodies respond with stress. Every time we see more pictures on social media, our bodies instinctively react to the threat and, again, go into stress.

One cannot escape terrific news unless one turns off the telly. One cannot really avoid the anxiety from watching the news. But one can manage the stress with which our bodies automatically respond by releasing it through our innate ability to shake it off. Just like animals do in the wild after a chase through the Serengeti, we can discharge the stress energy that has us all pumped up with nowhere to go.

Granted, we cannot be completely like the zebra – the British do not take to the African heat too well, and neither do we want be oblivious to world news. Yet especially when the terrible news is close to home and heart, we need to activate the zebra part in us and learn to shake off the remnants of stress and fear that we generate every time we look at Facebook. Only then can we enjoy the good news among the bad. By returning to a balanced state, the zebra (in us) can calmly face the terror. (Dr R Vieth)