How to cope with war anxiety
The last few years have been pretty relentless. First a global pandemic and national lockdowns, and now the Ukraine war and headlines about WWIII.
If you’re feeling anxious about war (whether it’s Ukraine or elsewhere), you’re not alone. It’s incredibly normal to feel scared, sad or even guilty. We explore how to cope with these feelings and how to live a happy life in spite of the news.
I feel so anxious when I hear about war
A lot of people are in the same boat here – it is not weird or weak to feel anxious about war. In fact it is a completely normal response to something extreme and upsetting.
While it’s normal to feel anxious sometimes, it’s also important to make sure it doesn’t escalate and take over your life.
Don’t overdose on the news
Sadly, wars are nothing new. They’ve been a part of humanity since time began. The difference is, our exposure to war has massively increased – we hear about it on the radio, we see upsetting images on social media, it’s even on the telly in the gym. Our brains were not designed to consume this amount of upsetting information and the constant barrage of news can really take its toll.
There is no guilt in limiting the amount of news you’re consuming. You may decide it’s important for you to spend 20 minutes a day catching up on world affairs. You may choose to just read the headlines, or you may decide you don’t want to engage with the news at all. Find what works for you.
You’ll come across lots of news-related posts on social media and you can find yourself ‘doom scrolling’ if you’re not careful. Read our guide to protecting your mental health when you’re online.
Talk to someone about how you’re feeling
You are not alone in feeling anxious about war and the chances are some of your friends are feeling the same. Sharing how you feel can often feel like a weight has been lifted. Choose someone you feel comfortable opening up to and tell them that you’re feeling a bit rough and why. Ask how they’re feeling too – you may be able to exchange tips on how to keep the anxiety at bay.
Find a practical way to help
Wars are complex and often far from home, which can leave us feeling pretty powerless. But there are ways to engage with conflict in a way that feels positive and productive and it often makes us feel better by doing it.
If you have the headspace and energy, you could try organising a fundraiser with proceeds going to humanitarian aid organisations. You could look for places taking clothing donations, you could join a local solidarity march or look to volunteer with refugees arriving in the UK from countries affected by war. Here’s a list of ideas for things you can do to help those affected by the war in Ukraine.
The important thing here is to do what feels right for you. Organising a fundraiser may feel too much, but joining a march could feel really empowering.
Don’t forget your self-care toolkit
When our attention is hijacked by world events, our self-care routine often goes out the window. It’s also common to feel like we don’t deserve to be happy, or to do fun things because so many people are suffering elsewhere in the world.
On the contrary, we reckon it’s even more important to look after yourself and a big part of that means finding joy in the world. By doing the things you enjoy and by practising self-care, you’ll build resilience to cope with the news and the changing political situation around the world. Self care looks different to everyone but it could include going to a weekly exercise class, having a mindfulness practice or just hanging out with friends.
Seek out the positives
Have you ever heard of the negativity bias? It basically means our brains are hardwired to pay more attention to bad things than to good things – it’s really annoying! When it comes to something as extreme as war, it means we can fixate on bad news – our minds have a tendency to spiral, thinking up bad scenarios and forgetting the good stuff in our lives.
We challenge you to notice the positive things in your life every day – it’s usually easier than you’d think. Has it been a beautiful sunny day? Did you have a particularly delicious sandwich for lunch? Did you have a good belly laugh with a friend? By keeping note of all the little positives in our lives, we can curb the spiralling mind.
The injustice of war is a crappy fact of life and it’s hard to get our heads around it. But one way we can put two fingers up at the people perpetrating war is by finding joy and resilience in our every day.
- AnxietyUK run helplines, email support, live chats and therapy services for people with anxiety disorders. 08444 775 774
- Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
- If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
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- Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.
By Olivia Capadose
Updated on 29-Apr-2022
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