War in Ukraine... another huge hurdle for humanity

Dr Michelle O'Driscoll shares some advice on how we can navigate our mental wellbeing in the current climate
War in Ukraine... another huge hurdle for humanity

Women and children, refugees coming from Ukraine at the Ukrainian-Romanian border in Siret, trying to escape the Russia's invasion. Picture: DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP via Getty Images

THE world has been rocked in recent days and weeks by the events in Ukraine.

It is impossible to not be affected by the stories and images emerging from a war-torn country. Having almost weathered the Covid storm, we seem to have sleep-walked into this next huge hurdle for humanity.

While most of us can be immensely grateful that our loved ones are safe and well in a country that isn’t under attack, that doesn’t lessen the impact that such upsetting news has, or has the potential to have, on our mental wellbeing.

Age appropriate information for children

We cannot shield children completely from what is going on, but as parents and guardians we can certainly choose how much of the news and media they get exposed to, what types of information sources they can access, and the language that we use to explain to them what’s happening. To be upset and scared is natural and normal. 

Take the time to hear their concerns, to validate any sadness, and to reassure them you’re here for them and that they are safe. 

They will hear lots in school, and you want them to feel they can come to you with any of that to explain it properly to them.

Choosing information for yourself

We can apply the same protection principles to our own intake of information about this war. If we chose to, we could literally watch and listen to updates 24-7, via television, radio, newspapers and social media. It’s very easy to get sucked into the horror of it, and watch everything on a loop.  This only serves to fuel our anxiety and stress even further. 

Be very mindful in particular of consuming too much of the sensationalist versions of events. 

Some sources are purposefully being concise, factual and delivering information on a need-to-know basis. Once daily updates are all you need to be kept informed, without overwhelming the sympathetic nervous system.

Action, however you see fit

Sometimes, feeling so helpless is the worst part of all of this. Which is why so many have rallied to contribute in whatever way they can. Truckloads of donations of nappies, tinned food, bandages, bottled water, sleeping bags and every other sort of necessary supply are being transported out to the Ukraine or Poland, both by official charity groups, and by unofficial volunteers who have come together in this time of need. Schools are acting as collection points, professions are grouping their resources to maximise the impact of their aid.

Get involved and contribute, or make a vital cash donation to the Red Cross, which can be done via Revolut.

However you choose to help, research the route in advance and ensure that it’s a reliable, reputable way of getting what’s needed to those most in need, quickly. Feeling like you’ve made some small difference will help.

Celebrate what’s here to be celebrated

It can feel impossible to see any good in the world right now, as the darkness and suffering is so overpowering. Do your best when you can to also acknowledge the power of human spirit, the strength of every man, woman and child involved, and the sense of national and almost global unity in this struggle.

Covid made the world feel a much smaller, more connected place. Every country suffered during it, and we really became aware of this sense of common humanity. 

While this connection has diffused through to today’s military struggles and makes the sense of loss and common suffering all the more palpable, it has also given momentum to global actions in response to this event that would have previously been unheard of. 

The fight for good, for life and for light has become incredibly contagious, and to watch that spark take off and face its aggressors is really inspiring.

Distract, for your own good

Things are very heavy right now,and carrying that permanently can take its toll mentally. Give yourself little breaks from it by setting down that load, and just having some fun. We can understandably feel guilty for even considering this when so many are literally fighting for their lives. But if we can take some time to simply watch something trivial, play something fun, or meet with friends for some light, meaningless conversation and laughs, we’ll be better able to pick the load back up again afterwards, better able to identify ways that we can help or contribute. In the midst of this chaos, we must do what we can to protect our own wellbeing, and hold onto hope for the future.

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