Metro Newspaper – Wednesday 23 February 2022
Link to feature
How to cope with World War Three anxiety – if the news is scaring you right now.
It has been a pretty tumultuous couple of years when it comes to global disruption.
Just when we thought we were finally about to see the light – with all Covid restrictions in the UK set to end this week – we are suddenly faced with the possibility of yet another global disaster, this time in the form of a large-scale war.
Boris Johnson warned of ‘bloodshed and misery’ if war breaks out, and now this bleak prediction is becoming a reality.
After weeks of uncertainty and mixed messages, Russian forces have now invaded Ukraine territories. The ramifications of this move are terrifying, and we are already seeing the fallout.
This morning, Putin ordered a full-scale invasion and hundreds are feared dead following a major bombing campaign.
For those caught up in the fighting, the fear and anxiety will be unimaginable. And for those of us watching from afar – the feelings of helpless dread and sadness can be overwhelming.
So, if you’re feeling anxious and afraid about the state of the world right now, you’re not alone.
Sandra de Monte is the founder and director of MindBerry Group and she trained at Harvard and Regents University in London in global health, psychotherapy and counselling.
Sandra says the stress and anxiety that you may be feeling right now is directly linked to an acute sense of helplessness.
‘The disturbing events that are unfolding in Ukraine have, understandably, left people across the world anxious,’ Sandra tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Such distressing news can impact our thoughts and behaviours in subtle and dramatic ways.
‘Unfortunately, these types of events are often reminders of how many circumstances and situations affecting society are outside of our control.’
Although we may not be on the frontline, and it is still unclear how these global events may come to impact our lives directly, the stress of hearing about this crisis unfold may be manifesting in our daily routines, thoughts, and behaviours.
‘Upsetting events provoke a wide range of feelings such as anxiety, fear, frustration, or even a sense of numbness which can affect your relationships with those around you,’ says Sandra.
‘You may also notice an increase in stress, resulting in feelings of exhaustion or difficulty sleeping. This is your body’s reaction to changes.’
How to cope with stress caused by news headlines
You can’t self-care your way out of worrying about a war. No amount of breathing exercises, manifestation or positive thinking is going to change Putin’s mind, or alter the course of political maneuvers.
But we can change how we react to circumstances that are completely beyond our control.
No matter how relentlessly bleak the headlines may become, the ability to recognise what we are able to change, and what we have to adapt to, can help to limit our stress response, and stop us from spiralling.
‘The good news, is that we can control how we respond to others and ourselves in the aftermath of distressing news,’ says Sandra.
‘During challenging times like these, it’s important to assess how you’re doing, check in with loved ones, and take steps to prioritise your emotional wellbeing.’
Sandra and MindBerry suggest trying the simple techniques below to help you cope with this kind of anxiety:
‘Check in with your thoughts and remember that your feelings are normal,’ says Sandra.
‘Remember that thinking about the topic that is making you feel anxious feeds your anxiety.’
Develop a coping plan
Sandra suggests connecting with friends and family and sharing your concerns to relieve stress.
‘We suggest using a focus exercise that you can do wherever and whenever you sit down for a few moments,’ says Sandra.
‘Breathe in and out and concentrate on your breath to check in with yourself. Then choose a colour and look around you to identify objects of that colour. This will calm you down and distract you from concerns and negative thinking.’
Be mindful of your media consumption
‘You may want to avoid or decrease the amount of time you spend on news and social media, particularly before bed, and refine your information sources to outlets that offer straightforward facts,’ says Sandra.
‘Try reading a book or listen to music that helps you feel more positive instead.’
How to manage anxiety when you have zero control over the events
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that people respond to current events in a variety of ways, Sandra says that whatever you are experiencing is probably a normal and valid reaction.
That being said, if you’re worried about your mental health, feeling overwhelmed with fear or dread, make sure you talk to someone about it. A friend or family member is a good place to start, but you can always speak to a professional like your GP, or call a mental health helpline.