Managing your Anxiety about the Ukraine Russian War
Author: Sarah Borg, Dip. HE (Melit.); B.A. (Hons) (Melit.)
Disclaimer: While this article focuses on our wellbeing as we follow this war, let us not forget the suffering of those affected directly by this conflict, i.e. the Ukrainians and the Russians opposed to this invasion.
Since the current Ukraine news is pervading all our newsfeed channels with images of bombings, wounded citizens and parents mourning their massacred children, it is very normal to feel anxious and afraid, helpless and hopeless. Just when we thought that the global pandemic was the worst we could ever experience, we were hauled into a further threat, ending up being robbed of the little sense of control we had left due to the pandemic.
But the good news is that we still have control over other little things, which indeed won’t stop the war, but will certainly benefit us and those around us a great deal. Here are a few helpful tips to consider, including strategies that involve only yourself and those that involve others. The final section before the conclusion provides direct links for donating to both local and international entities.
- Manage your media consumption and output
By taking breaks to limit your media exposure you would be distancing yourself from the source that amplifies your fear.
- Try allocating a fixed timeframe for indulging in information and make sure you don’t exceed it;
- Make a mindful choice to put down your phone. If that is not enough, try placing it in another room;
- Switch off smartphone notifications from news and social media apps;
- Choose reputable sources of information and avoid sensational or excessively graphic news items;
- Do not expose yourself to overwhelming news first thing in the morning or just before going to bed;
- Avoid doomscrolling and mind the trap of obsessive searches to support or negate your worst fears;
- Avoid sharing posts that are crisis-laden.
- Take care of your body
If you listen to your body, it will communicate its need to be pampered and nourished, challenged and worked out, calmed down and surrounded by beauty.
- Make time to breathe mindfully. This art requires some patience but it offers great benefits such as slowing down your heart rate, calming down your mind and body;
- Spend time in nature and feast your eyes with a picturesque landscape;
- If you can, get a massage or go to a spa as a way of pampering your body and enjoying the present moment;
- Engage in physical exercise and enjoy the pleasure that kicks in when endorphins are released;
- Be mindful about your sleeping patterns and make sure that you get enough rest. Help yourself by limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake;
- If you’ve never tried yoga and meditation, give them a go…nothing to lose, a lot to gain. If you’ve simply lost touch with these practices, aim for just one more yoga/meditation session and then aim for another one if it works for you;
- Do not underestimate the importance of eating healthily and keeping yourself hydrated.
- Establish a routine of healthy habits and stick to it
A routine can provide security and a sense of control. As you add more predictability to your day, life will feel much more manageable.
- Try getting up at the same time everyday;
- Do a “body scan” to get yourself out of thinking mode and into your body. There are multiple online sources that can guide you if you are new to this;
- Be more mindful in your choice of daily activities. Choose life-giving ones rather than those that overwhelm you;
- Avoid ruminating about the worst-case scenario. Mantras can be more supportive; e.g. “This too shall pass”;
- Limit discussions about the subject and avoid fear-arousing topics during quality time with loved ones.
- Stay with your emotions
Numbing your emotions is a very convenient coping mechanism which can be relieving in the short-term, but may very well backfire in the long-term.
- Carve out alone time to sit with your fears, connecting to them non-judgmentally while providing a loving presence to the fearful child within you;
- Get in touch with unhealthy coping strategies to self-soothe; e.g. overworking, emotional spending, overexercising, excessive screentime, social withdrawal, substance abuse, sex addiction or comfort eating;
- Cry if you need to. The release of endorphins can have a healing and cathartic effect. It can also attract caring people towards you and create a ripple of connection;
- Once you feel reassured that you will be there for yourself, you might be able to draw upon lessons you learned from the pandemic and use them to manage your current fears.
Reaching out to others
- Connect with others
- Look out for vulnerable and lonely people around you and support them in whatever way you can;
- If you like animals, connecting with them by petting them and playing with them can be therapeutic.
- Think of ways in which you can contribute directly.
There are multiple local and international initiatives supporting the victims in Ukraine:
- Department of Social Work and Social Policy (University of Malta) – read on how to donate here
- Caritas Malta – donate here
- Jesuits in Malta – Call on 79001241 for more information or send money directly to this number via Revolut.
- MOAS – donate here
- Nova Ukraine – donate here
- The Ukrainian Red Cross – donate here
- Ukraine Humanitarian Fund – donate here
- UNICEF – donate here
The Kyiv Independent, an English newspaper in Ukraine, is another entity that you can help. Their team is on the battlefield reporting the latest updates. You can donate to them either through their GoFundMe or via Patreon.
For more information on how to help Ukrainian people, you can call on 22199000.
- Seek help if needed
- Do visit your mental health practitioner if you are experiencing overwhelming feelings of sadness, grief or anxiety. You might be experiencing vicarious trauma.
While writing this article, I stopped for a short break to put on nail polish for tonight’s dinner. As I painted my nails red, I thought about the irony of my putting on nail polish while people in another country are fighting for their lives. But then again, although this impending global crisis is recent, this imbalance is not new to the way that the world goes round. There were always people indulging in buffets while others starved to death; a girl falling hard for her lover while her best friend grieved her mother’s loss. The coexistence of pain and pleasure, mundanity and passion, within the same world, is part of life’s mystique which might be hard to bear but wise to embrace.
Agius, M. (2022, February, 28). Caritas Malta collecting funds for Ukraine. Newsbook. https://newsbook.com.mt/en/caritas-malta-collecting-funds-for-ukraine/
Delgado, K. (2022, March, 1). How to manage war-related anxiety over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a psychotherapist. Inews. https://inews.co.uk/news/russia-ukraine-war-invasion-how-manage-war-related-anxiety-psychotherapist-1489122
Mallia, M. (2022, February, 28). Feeling Helpless Over Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine? Here’s How You Can Help From Malta. Lovin Malta. https://lovinmalta.com/news/feeling-helpless-over-russias-invasion-of-ukraine-heres-how-you-can-help-from-malta/
Moss, R. (2022, February, 24). If You’re Feeling Anxious, Scared Or Overwhelmed By War In Ukraine, We Get It. Huffpost. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/if-youre-feeling-anxious-scared-or-overwhelmed-by-war-in-ukraine-we-get-it_uk_62175c17e4b03d0c80341176
Potts, L. (2022, March, 1). Ukraine conflict: How to help yourself, your kids, and other. BBC https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-60557186