General

Strategies for Coping During Troubling World Events

Although the possibility of war has been in the news for weeks, I was still deeply unsettled when I heard that Russia had invaded Ukraine. I felt a sense of rising dread and helplessness as I wondered, What’s going to happen now? What should I do?

The war is thousands of miles away, but I have heard from many people who, like me, are wondering what to do about it. Here are some strategies that I have been intentionally implementing to keep myself grounded. I hope you find them helpful during these challenging times.

It’s easy to let our minds imagine what the future is going to be, and these thoughts can often be debilitating.

Focus on the present.

It’s easy to let our minds imagine what the future is going to be, and these thoughts can often be debilitating. Mitigate their impact by keeping your awareness and attention focused on the present.

  • Spend time immersing yourself in the moment throughout the day. I set a timer to remind myself to do something that will ground me in my immediate surroundings.
  • Use your senses to bring your whole awareness into the present. Listen to music, drink fragrant tea, meditate on your breath, pet your dog, or repot your plants. You can even take two minutes to notice all the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings around you, wherever you are.

Exercise choice.

When we feel powerless, it’s easy to become passive. Even though there is much about our current situation that we cannot control, we can shift our focus to what we do have influence and power over.

  • Choose your routine. Consider what routines you have in place. What’s working and what’s not? What could be added that would benefit you? Ensure you have routines that allow you to face the day, break it up into small chunks, and end your day well.
  • Choose your distractions. Have a list of small, easy-to-do creative tasks that you can take part in. This may be puzzling, reorganizing a drawer, creating a collage, or cooking something you enjoy.
  • Choose how you can make a difference. As you do what you can to take care of yourself, consider how you can support people directly impacted by the war.
Even though there is much about our current situation that we cannot control, we can shift our focus to what we do have influence and power over.

Keep active and engaged with life.

Because of the intensity and ongoing nature of the current situation in Ukraine, many people may find themselves struggling to stay present and motivated. A crucial act of self-care is to intentionally stay moving, active, and engaged with life – this is a central antidote to the effect of fear that can immobilize our mind, body, and spirit.

  • Move often – literally. Stretch, dance, walk or jog on the spot, do yoga, garden, walk up and down the stairs, silly walk around your house – just keep moving!
  • Do something you enjoy every day. This can be simple, like having your favourite snack, listening to a podcast you like, or doing a hobby you love.
  • Engage with humour, joy, and curiosity to counter distress and apprehension.
A crucial act of self-care is to intentionally stay moving, active, and engaged with life.

Remain informed while limiting your media intake.

It’s important to stay informed, but this can easily become all consuming. Don’t let watching the news become your go-to when you have a few minutes of down time.

  • Once or twice a day, listen to learn what is happening from a credible news source, and then shut it down.
  • Choose when you take in information. Limit how much news you watch and pay attention to when you take in new information. Typically, right before you go to bed is not the best time to do a quick news check, but many of us fall prey to this and then find it hard to fall asleep as the most recent images run through our mind.
Don’t let watching the news become your go-to when you have a few minutes of down time.

Stay socially connected.

Get creative in prioritizing your connection with other people. Surround yourself with people who build you up. It’s always a good idea to draw strength from our social support networks.

  • Schedule quality time with people, even if it’s just a phone or video call with friends, family, or other support systems.
  • When you are around people you care about, try to stay present and enjoy the moment of being together. Consider leaving your phone behind, or at least in your pocket.

The war in Ukraine may cause fear and anxiety, but we can exercise the power of our own choices and take control of those elements in our life that we do have influence over. Whatever the future holds, let’s remember that taking care of ourselves allows us to stay better informed. It also enables us to do what we can to help those directly affected by the situation and not become overwhelmed as we face an uncertain future.


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Author

Wendy Loewen

MA – Director, ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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© CTRI Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute (www.ctrinstitute.com)
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