The world has been in crisis mode over the past few years with tragedies compounding tragedies. And now, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we’ve added war to the fold. War obviously takes a tremendous toll on its victims, but hearing of, reading about, and watching it, even from the comfort of NYC, affects our mental health too. While our suffering is incomparable to that of direct victims, it is still real and worth discussing.
Most importantly, it is ok to feel anxious or stressed even if you are not directly affected by the war in Ukraine, or by any other piece of news that is getting you down. Denying our feelings does not get rid of them; it only blocks us from properly dealing with them. Think of your emotions like facts. Even if you deny them, they still exist. And even more so, denying them can make the effects worse. Take climate change: denying its effect on the world prevents us from fixing it, so it is actively getting worse by believing or acting like it does not exist. Same with your emotions. They are active in every thought and interaction you have, and validating those negative feelings can actually mitigate them and make dealing with the constant barrage of negativity easier.
After that, there are small things we can do to feel better. Talking about your negative thoughts with others is a good next step. It does not have to be to a therapist, though that is definitely ideal. Even just discussing your anxieties with someone you trust can alleviate some of the burden. You might find that others feel similarly, and just knowing you are not alone, and feeling supported by others, is beneficial. It can also be useful to turn off your phone for a bit. We are constantly inundated with information, most of it discouraging. Just on Tuesday, my NYT notifications read: “President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded for help…” “A powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck near Japan’s Fukushima…” “The case that killed #MeToo in Sweden…” “Global [covid] cases are rising again…” and it goes on. If it gets to be too much, as it often does, it can be healthy to just shut off notifications, or at least have them delivered silently so they are not constantly disrupting you. And now that the weather is getting warmer, taking walks or doing other activities that make you content can take your mind off of the distressing state of the world and keep you present.
Even after all of this, though, it is ok to not feel ok. It is a difficult time right now and if quick fixes aren’t enough, that makes sense. Giving yourself the time and space to not feel ok can be useful too. There is no foolproof way to get through disaster—or life in general—and it does not mean you are not doing enough or that you are a lost cause if these few weeks, months, or years have hit you extra hard.
I hope we can all find a little piece of stability this week in this crazy world.
– Etta Feuer