What exactly is war anxiety?
War anxiety, also known as nuclear anxiety, is a surprisingly common reaction to conflict-related news and images. The news from Ukraine appears to be hitting us especially hard, coming on the heels of a two-year pandemic. This could be linked to our already high levels of fatigue, anxiety, and a shaky sense of control. A poll by the American Psychological Association found that Russia's invasion of Ukraine caused a lot of stress for 80% of the people who answered.
What does the research indicate?
We are still learning about the long-term effects of mass violence fears. A Finnish study discovered that adolescents who were concerned about nuclear war were more likely to develop common mental disorders five years later. Anxious people are also more likely to seek out crisis coverage in the media, which can lead to a vicious cycle of distress.
War anxiety symptoms
War anxiety can creep up on you gradually or appear suddenly in response to a trigger. Symptoms can manifest in the mind, the body, or both. Anxiety can manifest physically as a racing heart, butterflies in your stomach, nausea, or dizziness. Some people experience full-fledged panic attacks. Others experience war anxiety as uncontrollable worries, difficulty sleeping, restlessness, or nightmares. Others may experience numbness. Remember that anxiety is a normal reaction to life's stresses and that a small amount of anxiety is adaptive — it tells your body to take a threat seriously.
Effective coping strategies.
When your mind is preoccupied with the war, or when you experience muscle tension or other physical symptoms, there are some strategies that can help you break the cycle of anxiety.
Reduce your media exposure. Emotionally compelling news sells, and news that negatively affects you is more likely to be addictive. Breaking the habit of regularly checking the news may be the most effective single change in combating war anxiety. You shouldn't be exposed to it for more than 30 minutes a day, and you shouldn't be exposed right before bed.
Make an effort to help others. Channelling your anxiety into meaningful connections may help you feel less helpless. Consider checking in to offer support if you have a friend or acquaintance from Ukraine. Consider volunteering or donating to one of these organizations.
Develop compassion. Anger can be triggered by war anxiety, which stems from a loss of control. Anger can be directed at populations or ethnic groups, or it can be directed at family members or friends who hold opposing views. Anger can be effectively challenged with compassion in addition to interventions such as mindfulness, physical activity, and breathing exercises. Begin by paying more attention to the kindness around you, attempting to limit your judgments and attempting to appreciate different points of view.
Alter your routine. Limiting your exposure to the media, news updates, and political debates will increase your free time during the day. Unfortunately, as our brains are hard-wired to do, unstructured time usually results in more worrying. Instead, try incorporating the following anxiety-relieving activities: Take a walk in the woods. According to research, spending as little as 15 minutes in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety.
Increase the amount of time you spend exercising. Any aerobic activity can help you feel less anxious, but the more intense the activity, the more it helps.
Deep breathing and mindfulness exercises are recommended. Try to practice every day to reap the benefits. Guided mindfulness can be practiced in person or at home using CDs or mobile apps. Breathe2Relax is a free and scientifically proven mobile app that teaches deep breathing exercises.
Obtaining additional assistance
For the vast majority of people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, symptoms will peak and then gradually fade. Severe anxiety symptoms, on the other hand, may necessitate additional attention, especially because conflict can trigger memories of past traumatic experiences. If your work, sleep, or general sense of well-being is being disrupted by war anxiety, consult with your primary care clinician to see if therapy or medications are necessary. This pamphlet can be useful when discussing the war with children. The Disaster Distress Helpline (800) 985-5990) is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for crisis counseling and referrals to local resources.