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Navigating World Events: Ukraine Crisis

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Navigating World Events: Ukraine Crisis

Guest post: Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo, Psychologist

 

The world seems like a difficult place to navigate right now. First the Coronavirus pandemic, and now the crisis in Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, our tolerance of emotional events may be quite low and we could be experiencing a whole range of emotions – notably fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.

Yes, it is awful, and no, you don’t have to bottle it all up and “carry on”.

When facing adversity, our brain goes into ‘threat mode’, a natural response with the aim of protecting us – however, it can create some challenging symptoms. If we can learn to notice when this occurs, we can respond and cope much better.

There may be much that is still out of our control right now but there are things we can focus on that are within our control, like how we respond to our thoughts and emotions. We may notice “what ifs” creeping into our thoughts or perhaps find ourselves trying to predict outcomes. We may find ourselves consuming more and more media in order to make sense of the situation or procrastinating to avoid things in our day to day lives like study demands or socialising.

Many of us are becoming overwhelmed by constant news alerts and images on social media, yet we can also feel guilty for wanting a break from the news. We know that long term stress can impact our mind and body, so we need to find a balance between looking after our own wellbeing and being compassionate towards others. If we are overwhelmed, we can’t properly manage our daily needs or make effective decisions about how we may want to help the people impacted by the war.

Some tips that I have been using over the past few days….

 

  1. It is ok to take breaks from the war. Have time away from the news and social media and conversations with others about the war.
  2. Try and “lean in” to what you are feeling. Notice and name your thoughts, feelings, and any bodily sensations you observe. What can you manage even with these showing up? E.g. to attend a lecture, to carry on with your course work, to pop to the gym.
  3. Try some simple self-soothing exercises or grounding exercises. Sit on a chair, push your feet into the floor and take an in-breath. Look around and name 3 things you can see and hear.
  4. Try and stick to your daily routine where you can.
  5. Try and take some time for valued activities. These can be a combination of things you enjoy for yourself or with others. Again, we may notice that ‘guilt’ shows up around doing this when there are people struggling in Ukraine.
  6. Remember to keep up your self care baseline – eat a nourishing diet, hydrate well and move your body/exercise regularly, maintaining a regular sleep routine where possible. Take a simple short walk each day in nature, if possible, as this is great for helping you process thoughts and emotions.
  7. Put in boundaries around talking about the war, being asked to help with collections or social media support. Only do things if you feel you are emotionally and physically able to right now.
  8. Be aware of the urge to compare yourself with others in respect to what they may be doing to help those affected. We are not all the same and what works for one person does not mean it works for someone else. Some people find that helping others helps them manage their wellbeing, while for others they benefit more from targeted time out and self-care.
  9. Another way of managing uncertainty and anxiety is to revisit boundaries in terms of your relationships, study, work, and leisure time. You may want to think about what you can and can’t manage right now and where there may be ‘tweaks’ needed in your daily schedule.
  10. Taking some ‘targeted time out’ which is time away from study, work and socialising and focusing on yourself can help uncertainty and anxiety. This can be as little as 20 minutes where you read a book, watch a valued TV series, draw, write or have a relaxing bath.
  11. Limiting media consumption and social media use can beneficial if it is a source of overwhelm or distress. Think about just watching new bulletins rather than using apps and 24-hour news channels.
  12. Connecting and talking with others about how you feel is also important. It helps to normalising the myriad of feelings that people are experiencing right now.
  13. Things that have helped me cope include downloading a playlist of songs I really connect with. Listening to them with headphones while mouthing/singing the words will help you to connect with the present moment. Reconnect with a lost hobby/interest. I bought a calligraphy set this week, which is something I used to love doing. It is quite calming when feeling the ink flow on the page.

 

It is useful to remember that we are super resilient as human beings.  If you were to look back at how you have navigated the last 2 years, you will probably be surprised at what you have achieved. Be proud and take care of yourself!

If you are struggling, please see the list of resources and wellbeing contacts in your Nido welcome book.

 

Dr Tara