What To Do When You Feel Helpless During A Time Of War

There’s a lot of bad news going around today, both nationally and internationally. For those of us in the US, seeing the violent conflicts in other parts of the world can be extremely distressing. It often feels like there’s nothing we can do, and it’s hard to not be affected by international conflict. Feeling helpless during a time of war can be overwhelming. How are you supposed to go about your day-to-day business when there’s so much violence and so many lives being lost on a daily basis? How can you avoid experiencing vicarious trauma? And if you’re connected to a place experiencing violence through family ties, things only get harder.

But there is hope. In times of war, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and helpless, especially when faced with circumstances beyond our control. The turmoil, uncertainty, and fear can weigh heavily on our minds, making it challenging to navigate through each day. However, it’s essential to remember that even in the midst of chaos, there are coping strategies and actions we can take to maintain our mental well-being and find a sense of empowerment.

Seek Connection

During challenging times, connecting with others who understand your experiences can provide immense comfort and support. Reach out to friends, family members, or support groups who can offer empathy, encouragement, and a listening ear. Sharing your feelings with others who are going through similar situations can help alleviate feelings of isolation and provide a sense of belonging.

Another way to take care of yourself during an international conflict is to practice good self-care. Engage in activities that promote relaxation and self-care to help manage stress levels. This could include mindfulness exercises, deep breathing techniques, meditation, or engaging in hobbies that bring you joy and comfort. Prioritize adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise to support your overall well-being during this challenging time.

Limit Media Consumption and Avoid Doomscrolling

While staying informed is essential, constant exposure to distressing news and images can exacerbate feelings of helplessness and anxiety. Set time limits on your media consumption and choose reliable sources for updates. Take breaks from watching or reading the news, especially before bedtime, to give your mind a chance to rest and recharge. Limiting your media consumption can also involve setting boundaries with people. If you have a friend or relative who insists on only talking about tragedies, it’s completely acceptable to set a hard boundary with them on what you’re willing to discuss. Set boundaries with yourself and others to protect your mental and emotional well-being. It’s okay to say no to additional responsibilities or commitments that may overwhelm you further. Practice self-compassion and remind yourself that it’s okay to feel a range of emotions during this challenging time.

It’s also important to avoid doomscrolling. Doomscrolling is a term used to describe the act of endlessly scrolling through negative news or social media feeds, particularly on topics such as disasters, tragedies, crises, or other distressing events. It involves consuming a constant stream of information, often with a focus on bleak or alarming content, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and despair. And what’s worse, social media algorithms prioritize divisive content, making upsetting content hard to get away from.

The impact of doomscrolling on mental health is significant. Constant exposure to distressing news and imagery can lead to heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also contribute to feelings of helplessness and a sense of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of global issues. Additionally, doomscrolling can disrupt sleep patterns, decrease productivity, and negatively affect overall well-being. Sometimes the only solution to doomscrolling is to literally disconnect– turn off your phone, log out of your social media, and turn off feed notifications. An information diet like this doesn’t mean that you’re less informed; it simply means you have fewer information streams demanding your attention. You should also limit the sources of information you accept. Ensure that you’re obtaining information from reliable and reputable sources to avoid spreading misinformation or being exposed to sensationalized content. Remember that if you’re getting your news from social media, you are being served content designed to get engagement– not content that’s necessarily designed to educate.

Focus on What You Can Control and Live Your Values

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of events during wartime, but focusing on what you can control can help regain a sense of agency. Break tasks into manageable steps, prioritize your responsibilities, and take proactive steps to address immediate concerns within your sphere of influence. By taking small, concrete actions, you can regain a sense of control and empowerment.

Channel your energy into activities that align with your values and provide a sense of purpose. Whether it’s volunteering for humanitarian causes, boycotting companies that support international aggressors, supporting local relief efforts, or participating in community initiatives, contributing to positive change can foster a sense of hope and resilience amidst adversity.

Explore Your Feelings

Bottling up your emotions and concerns during war isn’t good for you– and don’t think that just because you’re living in a safe situation, you aren’t allowed to express concern! Sometimes people get trapped in thoughts that because they aren’t suffering from the same immediate threats as people in war-torn regions, they aren’t allowed to have negative feelings and thoughts. That simply isn’t true; everybody is allowed to have emotions, regardless of their physical situation. It’s important to find a way to express these emotions and thoughts that works for you.

Artistic expression can be a powerful outlet for processing emotions and finding solace amidst turmoil. Whether through writing, painting, music, or other forms of creative expression, allow yourself to express your feelings in ways that resonate with you. Creative expression can provide a sense of catharsis and empowerment, helping you navigate through difficult emotions.

Amidst the chaos of war, it can be challenging to find moments of gratitude, but cultivating a mindset of gratitude can provide solace and perspective. Take time to acknowledge the things you’re grateful for, whether it’s moments of kindness, acts of solidarity, or the resilience of the human spirit. Reflecting on what you still have amidst adversity can help shift your perspective and foster resilience.

Seek Mental Health Support

During times of war, the emotional toll can be immense, and it’s entirely normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or distressed. Seeking support from a mental health professional can provide invaluable guidance and assistance in navigating through these challenging times. Remember, your mental well-being is just as important as your physical health, and reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

A professional therapist or counselor can offer a safe space to express your feelings, develop coping strategies, and explore ways to manage your emotions effectively. Whether you’re experiencing heightened anxiety, struggling with traumatic memories, or simply feeling overwhelmed by the constant influx of distressing news, know that you don’t have to face these challenges alone. By seeking support from a mental health professional, you’re taking proactive steps towards prioritizing your mental well-being and finding resilience amidst adversity. If you’re ready for some extra mental health support, don’t hesitate to reach out to the therapists here at Love Heal Grow– we’re here for you!


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