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  • How to support yourself and others during a world crisis.
How to support yourself and others during a world crisis.

How to support yourself and others during a world crisis.

Watching the war between Russia and Ukraine unfold, people around the world are experiencing all sorts of emotions ranging from numbness, helplessness, guilt and fear to hostility, anger and rage. All these extreme emotions right now are a normal reaction to the unprecedented circumstances. Sometimes anxiety becomes so strong that it interferes with our daily life. 

What can we do to help ourselves and support our loved ones? 

Please remember that there are no right or wrong ways to deal with a crisis. Try different things and listen to yourself – do more of those things that help you and less of those that are not. Trust your body and take care of it. Everyone reacts to stress differently. Sleep if you want to sleep. Eat if you want to eat. Run 5 miles every day if your body is asking for it.

All psychologists are now talking about the importance of grounding and basic processes like eating, exercising, and sleeping. It’s not because we’re boring and don’t know better, it is because we know exactly how the stress cycle works. Even if these recommendations infuriate you and seem unrelatable, please listen. When the level of stress hormones subsides (and this will inevitably happen in a couple of weeks or so) your body will thank you for everything that you have done for it.

Right now, while you are reading this blog , inhale,exhale and breathe deeply and evenly for a while. Most of us have too many thoughts and feelings at the same time. We are being drawn into a whirlpool of emotion. Keep breathing while you are reading this. 

If you are feeling very anxious right now, try one of these three exercises:

  1. Identify and name the cause of your anxiety.
    Putting things into words decreases the intensity of the emotion and helps to improve self-control a little bit. (e.g. “I am anxious because I am scared of…” or “I am anxious because it is close to me and concerns me”).
  2. Switch on the rational part of your brain.
    Count backwards from 1,000 in increments of seven until you get tired; find five green objects in the room and name them, now find five blue objects, continue using different colours.
  3. Help your body to get rid of the stress hormones.
    Sit or stand with feet on the floor, straighten your shoulders, relax tense muscles, breathe deeply and evenly so that the exhalation is twice as long as the inhalation. If feeling very jittery and agitated, do ten squats or go for a run.

Practice mental hygiene

Human brains are wired for certainty and routine, making uncertainty very difficult to bear. Many people are trying to closely monitor the news to stay informed and reduce anxiety related to the unknown. Unfortunately, most news these days will not bring certainty or relief, in most people it will only increase anxiety. If you are feeling overwhelmed from reading the news, social media or talking to people, try the following:

  • Identify up to 3-5 news sources.
    These should be trustworthy and reliable. Ideally, they should also be focusing on facts and figures rather than discussing future possibilities and long-term consequences of the current situation. Don’t try to grasp the full picture by reading everything. We will have time for that later.
  • Take regular breaks from all sources of panic.
    Social networks, news and people. Psychologists advise for the periods of “silence” to last from one to three hours a day.
  • Set limits on reading the news or discussing a sensitive topic.
    Reading the news a lot and talking about the situation can make you feel powerless and helpless. You could try reading articles or talking to others for no more than 20 minutes in a row. Set a timer and stick to it.

If you are feeling better but afraid to get sucked into the rabbit hole again

  • Do something that is meaningful to you.
    Donate, help people in another community or volunteer for a charity. When the injustice of this scale is happening, it’s easy to succumb to feeling helpless and forget that we are still able to control and change something at our own – albeit small – level.
  • Accept that some things are out of your control and yet unknown.
    It is important to sort the problems that worry you into two groups:Urgent and actual: family, work, home and managing your emotional state. For example, many people who are stressed cannot eat or sleep. These issues are pressing and need to be dealt with right now.Potential and global problems: nobody knows how this war will affect the world and what impact it will have on each one of us. However, no matter how hard you think about it right now, you can’t change what is to come. Things might even turn out better than you think.

If you feel an urge to do something right now

The desire to do something urgently is a normal reaction to painful uncertainty and fear. 

To understand whether it would be better to resist or follow this desire, try to assess – as objectively as possible – whether your activity is making sense. Is it helping you cope or rather distracting you from what is important? Or maybe it is just exhausting you and taking away your strength?

  • Do something small (e.g plant flowers, bake a cake, take rubbish to the recycling centre) and praise yourself for doing that. If you still have resources, do something else. Continue until you feel better. 

Finally, make a crisis plan 

Write a letter to your future self. Consider including the following:

  • Signs of a crisis: how I can understand that this is the time to use this plan. 
  • Things that helped me during previous crises: favourite activities and hobbies, tasty food, clothes, places, movies, books, counselling. 
  • Things that did not help me during previous crises – all that increased anxiety, fear, irritation or drained me.
  • People I can trust and with whom I want to communicate with in a crisis,include  their phone numbers.
  • Instructions: what exactly I need to do and in what order.
  • Self-support words.

Please don’t be afraid to carry on

Some people might feel guilty for going on with their normal lives while other people are struggling so badly. 

Think of what you can do for those in need (for example, donate to a charity helping refugees or check on someone who might be affected) and continue with your life. All of us have people we care about or people who depend on us and they still need our support. Please keep cultivating your own garden – it gives hope to all the rest. 

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