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The conflict in Ukraine: 6 Ways of coping with overwhelm

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

1. Manage your exposure to the news (and make sure you’re only looking at reputable news sources)

There can be a strong urge to check for updates regularly, this is because we crave certainty or for the situation to be ‘fixed’ and this can lead to constantly checking. Have an agreement with yourself that you will only check the news once a day or every other day and think about the best time to do that. For example, watching just before bed may lead to disturbed sleep or watching before you head into an important meeting may lead to feeling overwhelmed or unable to concentrate.

2. Limit your exposure to social media

There are some difficult images being shared on Tiktok, Facebook and Instagram. The difficulty is that these can just appear in your feed without a ‘trigger warning’. Moreover, a study into Twitter use during the COVID-19 lockdown showed that the more you were on there the higher the chances of feeling angry, disgusted or sad. So try to find alternatives to social media.

If you find it really hard to step away from your phone then consider what other apps you could use for the time being. E.g. games, podcasts, a round of Wordle? Log out of your social media accounts to help break the habit of tapping onto them without realising.

3. Keep an eye out for your inner-critic

When we are under stress our inner-critic gets louder and ‘shoutier’. It might tell you things like “I should understand more about the conflict” or make you feel guilty because “I should be doing more to help”.

This is your brain trying to problem-solve a situation that is beyond its control. By turning the blame on you it feels as though it can regain a small amount of control. Thank your brain for trying to help then choose to be kind to yourself instead: say to yourself “This is a difficult situation and it’s OK that I feel big emotions right now. I'm just doing my best”.

4. Find small, daily ways to release the pent up stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol

When we have ongoing stress (like being bombarded with constant bad-news) we don’t get to close the stress-cycle. The stress cycle should look like this 1) detect danger 2) stress hormones are released 3) we burn through the stress hormones as we flee or fight the danger 4) the danger passes and we celebrate our survival.

However, in this situation we are only going through stages 1 and 2 of the stress cycle, we are not using up the adrenalin to fight or flee because we are not actually faced with the danger here ourselves. So we need daily ways of using this up. Ideas are dancing (e.g. around the kitchen); singing (e.g. in the shower, belt it out!); breathing (using a breathing exercise); laughing and socialising. Ideally we should be doing this for 20-60 minutes everyday.

5. Contribute in some way

This isn't a necessity but it can help us to feel slightly less helpless.

Some ideas for this:

- Check to see if there’s a local charity receiving donations of clothes or other essentials.

- Give an amount that feels comfortable to a reputable charity. Some options to consider are Disaster Emergencies Committee (the one the queen has donated to), Choose Love (we donated to this one) and The British Red Cross.

- Go to online shops like Etsy and use the filter to find ‘digital’ products and then filter again to ‘country’ and choose Ukraine. If you buy a digital product like a pattern then the seller receives the money instantly and nothing needs to be posted as it’s all automated.

6. Anchor yourself.

Whether you have a religion to turn to, are spiritual or find hope in things like social connection or nature, these all have the power of bringing us back to the present and are excellent ways of anchoring ourselves.

Find a positive quote or affirmation, a favourite song or religious verse. This may be something you want to take a screen shot of and keep as a screen saver on your phone, or print it out and stick it in your wallet, diary or fridge-door to refer back to when you are feeling low.

Please do share in the comments below any quotes or affirmations that have given you hope that you think others may benefit from reading.

What next?

1. Are you unsure how to talk to your kids about the war? Head over to Child Psychologist Dr Lucy Russell's website where she has 5 tips for this.

2. Read Dr Liz White's blog for practical ways to manage worrying about the conflict

3. If you need more support or suspect that this conflict has re-triggered old trauma-symptoms then you may benefit from therapy. Contact me to have a free initial consultation so we can think through what you need together.

4. Want to learn more about the stress cycle which I mention in point four? Check out the book Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski

5. Share this blog post with anyone else who could be feeling scared at the moment using the social media share buttons below this body of text.

Sending my good wishes to you and your families and thinking of everyone caught up in the conflict.

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This is a really helpful article, thank you so much for sharing.

Mar 04, 2022
Replying to

Thanks for letting me know you found it helpful Emily.

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