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Navigating Mental Health Amidst a World Crisis

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Navigating Mental Health Amidst a World Crisis

The attacks we saw in Israel and the continuing crisis are truly difficult to comprehend. We have written this for those who are struggling to cope and are looking for concrete strategies. We appreciate that everyone reading this has varying degrees of personal involvement in this conflict. For those who are struggling and grieving, we understand that these suggestions may not work at this current point in time. However, we hope that some of the strategies below can be of assistance in some capacity.

 
War and violence in the world around us can impact our mental health in various ways, as many people are experiencing a threat to theirs or their loved ones safety and security. It is common to experience feelings of loss, sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, overwhelm, isolation and a deep sense of insecurity as we continue to receive reports about these tragic events. The impacts of war on mental health can vary significantly. Some factors to consider are: one’s trauma history, the level of connection to the conflict, and the level of social support one has.
 
Here are some strategies to help us manage our mental health in these times of crisis, and support those around us as friends, colleagues, and parents:
 
  1. Manage your media consumption: Take breaks from constant information by deleting certain apps, setting timers on apps, and only allowing yourself to read or watch news sources at certain times of day. Avoid having the news on all day long in the background. If pictures and videos are triggering, read reliable news articles instead. Be mindful of where you are consuming your media, and consider if children around you may see what you are watching.

  2. Start conversations with your friends, family, and colleagues when appropriate: Take the time to learn from others who may know more than you do. Be open to discussions and gaining insights. It is better to accidentally say something wrong and to learn from your mistakes than to say nothing at all.

  3. Reach out to friends and colleagues who are more closely connected to this tragedy: Show your support and be sensitive to what they may be experiencing. Check-in on people as they may feel isolated and alone. Just communicating empathy can be significantly beneficial to those struggling right now. Having someone know you are thinking of them can help minimize feelings of isolation. You don’t have to think of the “perfect” thing to say, just showing up for someone in need is powerful.

  4. Spend time with people who are experiencing the same loss or going through similar experiences: Talk to them and connect about how you are feeling. Grief often feels very lonely, actively work to ensure you are connected to others.

  5. Allow yourself to feel: Writing and talking about it can help. Acknowledge your emotions and provide yourself with messages of empathy and validation. These are tough times, it’s okay to have complex feelings about it.

  6. Talk to your kids: Ask open-ended questions about how they are feeling and what they understand and truly listen to their answers. Refrain from asking close-ended questions that can shut down the conversation. Being emotional in front of your children can make them feel more comfortable expressing their emotions.

  7. Create a self-care plan: Engage in activities that bring you happiness or help alleviate stress. This may vary for each individual, as people find a wide array of activities helpful. Examples include going for a walk, exercising, journaling, creating art, listening to music, reading, or seeking therapy.

  8. Adhere to your normal routine as much as you can: Engaging in your routine can provide some sense of normalcy and distraction. While you may not be functioning at the level you are used to, try and do what you can. Have empathic understanding for yourself that you are doing your best right now.

  9. Take care of your physical health: Exercise, walk in nature, eat nutrient dense foods, and hydrate. A healthy body helps support a healthy mind.

  10. Bring your awareness to connection and love: Practice having moments where you connect with positive experiences and relationships. For survival purposes, our brains are wired to input negative experiences into long-term memory much faster than positive experiences. Level the playing field in your brain by working to remember that there is good in the world.

  11. Seek additional support:

 
It is a privilege to be writing this from Canada and have the ability to disconnect from the tragic events at certain times of day and focus on self-care. We acknowledge that not everyone has this luxury right now. That being said, it is important to care for ourselves without guilt or shame. Our personal distress is not going to change this crisis, but managing our mental health can benefit ourselves and our loved ones. Support systems are crucial now more than ever. In these challenging times, choose to open up and connect with people instead of withdrawing. Acknowledge that these are challenging times, that our emotions may vary, and we can lean on each other to make these difficult circumstances a little bit more manageable.
 
The Cohen Clinic team is holding all those impacted in our thoughts. We are feeling this war deeply and know the overwhelming effects of trauma. We hope to support others as we navigate this time of crisis and uncertainty. As helping professionals, we hold onto the hope that light always finds its way through darkness.
 

 

 

 

References

 
Feldman, J. (2023, October 9). To my non-jewish friends it’s time to show up. Rough Draft Atlanta. https://roughdraftatlanta.com/2023/10/09/to-my-non-jewish-friends-its-time-to-show-up/
 
Ireland, N. (2023, October 10). How to talk to kids and teens about the Israel-Hamas war. Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/life/health-wellness/how-to-talk-to-kids-and-teens-about-the-israel-hamas-war/article_72424735-8588-53ce-8da4-b63aaa862766.html
 
Lovich, D. (2023, October 13). Help For Those Struggling At Work With The Horror In Israel. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahlovich/2023/10/13/help-for-those-struggling-with-the-horror-in-israel/?sh=2a860d70cbdb
 
Murthy RS, Lakshminarayana R. Mental health consequences of war: a brief review of research findings. World Psychiatry. 2006 Feb;5(1):25-30. PMID: 16757987; PMCID: PMC1472271.
 
Stahl, S. (2023, October 10). Main Line Health psychiatrist provides helpful ways to cope amid Israeli-Palestinian war. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/philadelphia/news/israel-palestine-war-conflict-mental-health-gaza-strip-hamas/

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