When war enters your living room…

A few weeks ago, war made an unwelcome entry into our living rooms, our homes, our radios, and our phones.

No matter who you are, news of the aggressive invasion of Ukraine by Russia is unavoidable, and it’s natural to be feeling stressed and helpless, as we see horrific images on the nightly news.

For me personally, it’s triggered a huge mix of emotions, and I’ve found myself closely monitoring the situation via the news, in a way that’s not healthy.

As the daughter of Ukrainian parents, I still have an elderly Aunt and first and second cousins who call Ukraine home, so my compulsion to read all I can about the conflict stems from my concern for my family. It’s hitting too close to home. These are family members I still keep in touch with, but my messages are now more urgent, as I ask where they are and how they are. Sadly, I’ve already had to send my deepest condolences to one of my cousins, after her husband died protecting his country.

Like me, here in Australia, others have family, friends and loved ones living in Ukraine or nearby regions or may have previously experienced the effects of war themselves. For others simply witnessing the news updates, and watching the graphic footage of civilians being hurt, killed and displaced, may be causing you to feel deep concern or distress.

Experiencing anxiety, stress, fear, anger, confusion, grief, sadness, or any combination of these emotions lets us know that our mind has detected threats and is concerned and trying to give us alerts and keep us safe.

While it’s completely normal to be feeling this way, here are some ways to cope with the impact of the war in Ukraine, whatever your connection with it.

Limit exposure
  • Avoid getting caught up in doom-scrolling of news sites or social media, as this can be overwhelming, and cause you to lose perspective on what else is happening in the world and in your own life.
  • Try to choose a set way to access your news and stick with it – perhaps tuning into a daily news round-up podcast each morning, or watching the same news show on TV each evening, rather than falling into the habit of looking at the news on your phone all day, without boundaries around your consumption.
It’s good to talk
  • Discuss your thoughts and feelings about the war with people you trust, such as close friends and family. This can help you feel more supported and connected, which is essential for your wellbeing. Even better – try to incorporate fresh air with your conversations – take a walk with a friend, and talk about how you’re feeling in response to the conflict. Being outside will also help you with a mental reset.
Look after yourself
  • Think about your own coping strategies and what’s worked for you in the past. This might be a form of self-care such as exercise, socialising with friends, drawing, listening to music, writing, being outside in nature. Choose activities that will make you feel good and will take your mind off the news.
  • Also, remember the basics of good care for yourself – sleeping, resting, eating well, exercising, drinking plenty of water – when we’re stressed, these can be the first things we forget, but they’re essential for coping.
Give back
  • Put some positive energy towards showing your support for people in Ukraine – for example by making a donation to a non-profit organisation helping civilians impacted by the war or spreading awareness via social media of ways people can be a positive force or a voice for those who are voiceless. This can help you feel more hopeful and positive about your contribution.
  • While we all hope that this war will be short-lived, without a huge toll on human life, no one can predict what the full extent of the horror will be. For now, all we can do is look after ourselves and our loved ones, and try to contribute in any way possible, while also caring for our own mental health.

If you feel like you need to talk to a professional, and are struggling to cope with the feelings brought on by the war, please contact Dr Olga Lavalle & Associates to schedule an appointment.

PS Glory to Ukraine

Written by Olga Lavalle

Olga is registered as a Clinical Psychologist with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. She provides psychological services under Medicare, is an Employee Assistance Program provider and an approved WorkCover NSW provider. Additionally, Olga consults to workplace and community sporting organisations.

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