Armed conflict of any kind has severe public health consequences for the entire global community. In keeping with our tradition of offering practical advice to our readers and addressing mental health consequences of public health crises, we have put together a piece that we hope will help during these extraordinarily trying times.
We are living through difficult days. Escalating violence and war affects us all, no matter where you are. Navigating the balance between staying informed and taking care of yourself is not easy.
We know because we are struggling too.
So please take this post as a reminder that we all have to care for ourselves right now in order to be of best service to others.
We take in information continuously. Distressing information, especially images and videos, is painful and can worsen our mental health. When we take in such information incessantly, we can feel overwhelmed, angry, sad, grief-stricken, and frustrated. This type of stress and emotional response is difficult to name and can go overlooked. Whether you are close to the conflict or far away, this can be hard to talk about with others. Please know that whatever you are feeling right now is valid, real, and worthy of our attention and care.
To help cope with the stress you are experiencing as a result of recent traumatic events, it is first important to:
1) Acknowledge your feelings and accept them. What you notice is your experience and it may feel or look different than what others are experiencing. Allowing the emotions to simply be rather than pushing them away can help you to better understand what you are most reacting to right now.
2) Pay attention to how the feelings are affecting you. Are you sleeping less? Are you drinking more? Are you glued to your news sources? Make sure that you are caring for your basic needs, which most of us throw to the wayside when we feel stress. It can also be helpful to talk to others who are close to you to see if they are having a similar experience.
3) Know what your early warning signs are for needing help. Early warning signs can be simple things you observe like eating less or isolating from friends. They can also be observations like feeling less compassion for others than you did before or not caring as much about your work. They are actions or internal thoughts that you know mean that you are stressed out or are heading towards needing more support. It can be good to write these down as a reminder to yourself that it may be time to reach out.
4) Have contacts for people or places you can reach out to if you do need help. We heal best with others, not in isolation. If you need support, know that you can reach out to a mental health professional but also to friends, faith groups, affinity groups, or in other places where you find community. Some of the best evidence for healing from experiencing traumatic events comes from community based practices.
Once you have taken these steps, it is also important to focus on the concrete actions you can take:
➡️ Limit your news and social media intake. There can be such a thing as too much information, especially during times of crisis. There is also a good deal of misinformation cycling during times of crisis, so it is important to make sure you are following credible sources and engaging in respectful dialogue. Make sure to give yourself a time limit in the morning and evening and avoid reading the news/tuning into social media before bed. Instead, spending time on activities you enjoy that are immersive such as music or crafts can help increase relaxation and focus on the present moment.
➡️ Stick to a routine. Staying in the present and maintaining daily routines can be a grounding practice and can help to calm us. Make sure that you are eating at least twice a day and drinking enough water/other fluids. Try to keep making meals, make sure you have what you need for the house, keep regular work hours, incorporate movement and relaxation, and get outside daily.
➡️ Talk openly with loved ones about what you are feeling. There’s a good chance they are feeling this way too. Discussing how you feel with others also helps them understand why you might be having a more difficult time than usual. Sharing experiences can increase your feelings of connection and help you to know that you are not alone.
➡️ Maintain hope. Having hope that the future will be better and that there will be less conflict and fewer lives lost is important. Hope allows us to cope better, to humanize the situation, and to keep looking forward, even at the darkest of times.
In our upcoming posts, we will talk more about how you can be there for your families and how to move forward in the midst of traumatic events.
Take good care of yourselves. We are here with you.
Stay safe. Stay well. And stay hopeful.
Those Nerdy Girls
‼️ If you or a loved one are in need of immediate assistance, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 OR 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; Hearing Support: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. In the UK, you can call 111 for non-urgent concerns or 999 if in crisis. Additional resources are available here.
Coping after disaster by the American Psychiatric Association