How to deal with war anxiety

As the crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic began to slow, another surfaced in news of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s violent invasion of Ukraine.

Ever since the attack began on February 24, 2022, the world has been gripped by the specter of war, especially after Putin hailed his country’s nuclear capabilities. In addition to the millions of Ukrainians who lose their homes, loved ones and lives, the invasion comes at a time when the world is coming to an end after two years of the pandemic roller coaster, where there is still much grief and untreated loss.

While the instinct to constantly want to stay on top of everything that’s going on is natural, “doomscrolling” – i.e. the habit of reading negative news and social media posts To infinity — can trigger and/or worsen depression, panic, stress and anxiety. Mental health experts tell Salon that the instinct to keep tabs on what’s going on is instinctive, but not always good for mental health.

“When the news is heavy and world events are frightening, one of our first instincts is to become hypervigilant and watch everything as closely as possible, reading and watching as much as possible,” says a therapist based in California. Nick Bognar. “It’s usually not a healthy instinct,” Bognar noted, explaining that this behavior can create an illusion of control. In other words, the brain believes that as long as we follow this new news carefully, there will be no surprises.

Of course, that’s not true at all: pretty much everything that happens is out of our control – that’s what scares us and makes us feel unsafe.

“In situations like the war in Ukraine, each of us has much less free will than we have in our personal lives,” Bognar noted. “Therefore, I recommend that people who want to follow the news ration it carefully and make sure they don’t consume too much.”

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Bognar said one way to combat this is to give yourself a deadline — say, an hour — before quitting, and then find more productive ways to spend your time.

“In that time frame, you should be able to get almost anything you need,” Bognar said. “Beyond that, I recommend people focus their energies and efforts where they can make a difference.”

Even before the Russian-Ukrainian war, helping others is known to be a good remedy for anxiety and depression, and comes with many health benefits.

“The people who are fighting and suffering in this war need help and assistance, and volunteering or donating to a charity that helps these people is a very worthy use of one’s time, and can be done without having to watch many hours of scary television,” Bognar said.

Psychologist Dr Carla Manly, author of “The joy of fear,” Agreed.

“When feelings of sadness, anger or instability arise because of the war between Ukraine and Russia, one of the most positive things you can do is to take action to support those who are hurting. need,” Manly said. “Whether you’re donating funds or finding a creative way to support those in need, your worries and fears will turn into hope when you offer meaningful support.”

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Manly tells Salon that what is happening in Ukraine can be particularly distressing as a reminder of the fragile state of the world. Indeed, when countries are at war with each other – even if it is not the country we live in – the very reality of war can stimulate “a strong fear that war may come to our own country. “.

“The Ukraine-Russia war also makes us realize that we are unable to control much of what happens in the world; this leads to feelings of helplessness, anxiety and depression,” Manly said. “While the news of the war between Ukraine and Russia is heartbreaking for all of us who are prone to anxiety (whether from PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, or some other mental health) tend to be much more sensitive to negative news and other uplifting stimuli.”

Doomscrolling, Manly said, can trigger a flight-or-fight response in people who tend to be more stressed and anxious.

“When the nervous system is activated in this way, additional complications can arise, including trouble sleeping, panic attacks, irritability and lack of concentration,” Manly said. “Our interpersonal relationships can also be negatively affected due to increased stress and anxiety.”

Manly also advised restricting his doomscrolling.

“While it’s important to stay current with current events, it’s equally important to set healthy boundaries with news and social media consumption,” Manly said. “As part of healthy self-care, it’s especially important to avoid the urge to immerse yourself in overly dramatic or doomscrolling news.”

Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a New York-based neuropsychologist and director of Comprehend the Mind, told Salon that it’s important to stay out of “what-if” mode – which can lead to catastrophic thinking – and to try to avoid “apocalyptic” conversations. with “apocalyptic friends”.

“You don’t need their anxiety and fear to rub off on you,” Hafeez said. “If need be, stay busier than usual. Worry and anxiety feed on inactivity.”

Hafeez added, “Everyone is still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is another massive event to consider; if you feel you can’t cope on your own, ask for help. of a licensed mental health counsellor.”

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