If you woke up to the news that Russia has declared war on Ukraine – and felt your stomach instantly sink – we’re with you.
Many of us hoped that full-scale conflict would be avoided and understandably, the uncertainty about what may or may not happen next is difficult to deal with.
Psychotherapist Lucy Beresford says if you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, that’s a totally expected reaction.
“People tend to feel much better when they are in control of life. Situations, like the pandemic, and now the war in Ukraine, can trigger feelings of anxiety, fear, and overwhelm,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“People with links to Ukraine might be feeling helpless. And anyone listening to the news, and hearing the strident communication on both sides, might feel alarm or panic. And because stress can affect us physically, leaving us feeling drained and low in mood, any stress still lurking as a result of the pandemic might now be amplified by this new sense of threat.”
You only have to look on social media to see that you’re certainly not alone in these feelings.
Those who’ve had a tough time with Storm Eunice may also be low on reserves, says psychologist Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo. And considering we’re watching updates from afar, you may also be experiencing emotions of helplessness.
She urges readers to “use reputable sources of information” to manage your reaction to the news.
“Avoid #ww3 for example, or crisis laden posts,” she says. “Take media breaks including social media and limit discussions, such as having discussion/media-free mealtimes.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Beresford adds that one way to deal with these feelings is to “lean into them”.
“This is hard but extremely valuable,” she says. “It takes courage to stay in the moment with your feelings, as there can be a fear of overwhelm. But whispering the mantra ‘this too shall pass’ to yourself is very effective.”
She also recommends doing a “body scan” to get yourself out of your thoughts and into your body.
“Sit, close your eyes, and gently, mentally, scan your body from the crown of your head down, really feeling your body on the chair,” she says.
You might feel like you’ve read every self-care tip under the sun after the last two years, but Beresford says getting the basics right is still important.
“Identify if you’re self-soothing eg via drink, drugs, food, social withdrawal and do your best to stop,” she says. “The ‘cycle of escapism’ is not serving you.”
Feeling like you want to help – but not knowing how – can increase feelings of helplessness, so Dr Quinn-Cirillo recommends thinking about what you can do.
“There are some basic things we can do,” she says. “We may know people from Ukraine who are worries about loved ones. Check in on them. Let them know you are here to listen or talk if they need. Is there anything practical you can do for them?”
Help and support:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
- CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.