The damaging impact of war anxiety and critical tools to protecting your mind
The war in Israel is on the minds of many around the world. It is heartbreaking to know that many men, women, and children have died, and that people are suffering. It is scary, sad, and difficult to comprehend.
Times of war are fraught with many difficult and complex emotions. People may feel a combination of fear, anxiety, and anger. Those directly impacted here in the United States are worried about their friends and loved ones.
War anxiety is real. Symptoms can be in your mind, in your body, or both. Physical symptoms of anxiety may include a racing heart, butterflies in your stomach, nausea, or dizziness, thoughts may spiral out of control, you may have trouble sleeping, feel restlessness, or have nightmares. Some people may feel numb. Remember that anxiety is often an appropriate response to life stressors, and a small amount of anxiety is adaptive and healthy.
These are horrors that are happening. We want to stay informed, but we need to set good boundaries around how much and what type of news we are consuming.
Here are some tools and suggestions.
- Limit your media exposure. Try to break the habit of checking the news regularly. And try to limit exposure before bedtime.
- Reach out to others. Don't isolate yourself. Talking about the images and horror with loved ones or people that are safe makes you feel like you don't have to bear it all yourself. And it lowers your sense of helplessness.
- Cultivate compassion. Anxiety about war can trigger anger. Instead of engaging in heated conversations, focus on kindness and compassion for yourself and others. Donate or volunteer if you can.
- Up your self-care practices:
- Spend more time in nature.
- Practice mindfulness using apps such as Insight Timer.
- Pause throughout the day and take long slow breaths.
- Spend time with loved ones.
Severe anxiety symptoms may require further attention. Exposure to war and images of death can trigger memories from past traumatic experiences. If war anxiety starts to interfere with your work, sleep, or general sense of well-being, reach out for help.
Call MHA at 716-886-1242 or if you are in crisis, contact Crisis Services at 716-834-3131 or 988.
Remember that feelings are natural, and this is a difficult time. It is ok to struggle.
This informative blog was written by MHA Executive Director, Melinda DuBois.