By Chris Burd, Masters Level Counseling Intern

With 24/7 news coverage and global social media connections, many of us in the United States are witnessing the invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces in real-time along with the rest of the world.  After two years of living with the uncertainty and hyper-vigilance of a global pandemic, watching the start of war from our living rooms might feel like it is just too much.

If you are experiencing an increase in anxiety, stress, and fear over the past two days, you are not alone.  As we all anxiously watch events unfold in Ukraine, here are some recommendations and reminders to care for your own mental and emotional well-being.

Allow Yourself to Feel

Witnessing tragedy or violence from afar may feel surreal.  We try to rationalize that we have no right to feel scared when there are others on the other side of the world in physical bodily danger.

While perspective on the real danger to our physical safety is valuable, honor your right to feel those difficult emotions.  You have a right to feel scared, sad, or angry.  Your feelings are valid.  Recognizing the emotion and allowing yourself to process what you are feeling will help to minimize the long-term impacts of stress and trauma.

Step Away from News Coverage

It is tempting to want to stay tuned in to the real-time coverage of world events.  We might tell ourselves that we are living through historical events and we want to be witness to as much as possible or it may simply be that cannot pull ourselves away from the tragedy and pain to focus on other things in our lives.

Turn the channel or turn off the media for a bit.  Check-in periodically to stay informed or set aside time each day to catch up on the events of the day.  Allow yourself to recognize the life that continues to move on around you.

Focus on What You Can Do and What You Can Control

I cannot stop a Russian invasion from my living room sofa tonight.  However, I can send a message of support to a Ukrainian friend, send a small donation to a charitable organization providing supplies to Ukrainian citizens, and spend an hour on a video call with my anxious niece to help her process her concerns.  And when my usual bedtime rolls around, I know that I will find it difficult to sleep, but I will focus on the thought that I did the things I could do within my power today.

There will be days when the only thing you can do is to provide a prayer or simply love the ones around you.

Practice Self-Care

Hug your dog. Take a walk. Call your mom. Make some tea.  Self-care will look different for each of us, but taking a moment to do a small thing to show yourself kindness is more important than ever in times of stress.

Practice Radical Grace

You may have difficulty focusing on an important project.  You may be unable to turn off the TV or step away from Twitter, despite knowing that you need sleep.  You may find yourself in tears without being able to articulate why.

It’s okay. This is hard. Give yourself grace.  Give others around you grace.

Ask for Help

If you are having a hard time processing your emotions or calming your anxiety, reach out for help.  Give voice to your feelings.  Connecting with others is a powerful way to ease our fears.  You might find that connection with a trusted friend or loved one – or you might want to reach out to a mental health professional.

If you are dealing with feelings of heightened anxiety and you want to connect with a member of our team, you can reach out to us to schedule an appointment.

If your anxiety and fear have escalated and you feel that you may be having a mental health crisis, please reach out to crisis services near you – or contact the Crisis Textline by texting HOME to 741741.