The war in Ukraine has captured the attention and hearts of the world. Modern technology is giving us a view of everything that we never would have had in the past. That knowledge is wonderful, and often inspiring, but it’s also extremely stressful and distressing. No matter how strong you are, some of the video footage from Ukraine can make you cry. Most of us are helpless in having a way to support Ukraine and its citizens.
Plus, the actions of the aggressor in this war can potentially impact everybody, no matter where we live. That fact is a subtext that adds to the stress. Almost two years into the pandemic, with supply chain issues, inflation, and other serious concerns also a reality, many people are having trouble sleeping or focusing on what needs to be done each day. Then, you also beat yourself up about that, because after all, you’re not in the war zone so you’re fortunate. Right?
Yes. True. But that doesn’t lessen the realities of the difficulties you are facing. The fact that somebody else is in a worse situation doesn’t make your situation better.
I’ve shared these suggestions before, in another context, and they certainly bear repeating now:
Look for the Helpers
This is excellent advice. I think it’s almost always credited to Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, which aired for 30 years on PBS. It’s simple, straightforward, and self-explanatory. When you become aware of or see terrible situations, try to shift your focus onto the people who are helping to make things better. Those people almost always exist. It can help to know that some people care.
For those of you who are as upset as I am over the merciless attack on Ukraine, I hope to have some information together for you by next week on ways you might be able to do something to in some way help!.
Breathing deeply and slowly triggers the body to stop stressing and start to relax. Concentrating on your breathing can distract your mind from what is bothering you. It can distract you from the uncertainties that can control you. Breathe in deeply through your nose. Hold for a moment. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. Taking a few minutes to focus on your breath will calm you.
Get Enough Sleep
I know this to be true, even though I personally rarely achieve it. Everything seems worse when you’re tired. Uncertainty, stress, anxiety, and some medical conditions can lead to insomnia and poor sleep quality. It becomes a vicious cycle. You can’t sleep well, so you end up feeling worse because you’re tired, and because you feel worse you can’t sleep well. Try napping if you need to. Get off any electronic devices earlier. Reduce caffeine intake and use of artificial stimulants. Try essential oils like lavender, valerian, Roman chamomile.
Focus on the Positives
Stress makes us think and worry about negatives, worst-case scenarios, potential problems, and possible catastrophes. All of that can really increase anxiety and feelings of panic. It is easy to dwell on the negative. But it’s a lot better for you to think about the possible positive aspects. I’m definitely not saying you should stick your head in the sand and ignore reality.
Go for a Walk, and if You Can’t, Then Get Sunshine by a Window
Exercise is just as important as sleep for controlling stress and anxiety caused by fear, uncertainty, or anything else. Exercise causes your body to release endorphins that make you feel good and help clear your mind. Some people are disabled, (like me), and walking is just not an option. In that case, being near a window of some kind can provide a helpful dose of natural light. MS has me pretty much stuck at home, so, access to sunlight is extremely important to me.
Find Time to Meditate or Pray
Meditation and prayer have been proven to reduce stress, no matter the root cause of the stress. Maybe you think of meditation as something performed by people in sunglasses, sandals, and love beads, chanting while seated in a cross-legged position in a room that smells of incense. That is a silly stereotype. Even a few minutes of sitting quietly and consciously focusing on your breathing is a meditation. There are great guided meditation sessions available on YouTube. And here are some free meditation apps: Insight Timer, Smiling Mind, The Breathing App, Oak, Omvana, Mindfulness Coach, and Three Good Things.
Reduce the Number of Negative People in Your Life
I think everybody has at least a few people in life who can make you feel stressed just by being around them. These are people who exacerbate uncertainty and make you feel uncertain even about yourself. You know who I’m talking about. I realize you often can’t cut these people out of your life completely. But you know who they are! So, make every effort to limit your interactions with them. Consciously try to short-circuit their impact on you.
How do you deal with stress and worry in your life? What’s on your mind most these days? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org because I’d really love to know.