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How to Manage War Anxiety

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When the latest news and images of war, death and destruction flood the media, it can be overwhelming and frightening. For some, it can affect emotional health, triggering anxiety and stress.

It usually stems from your fear of the same things happening where you live. It’s a common reaction. In fact, some experts have dubbed this phenomenon “global stress disorder,” “war anxiety,” or “nuclear anxiety.”

If you’re feeling this way, here are some tips for recognizing your emotions, managing stress, and getting help when needed.

How to Spot the Emotions Triggered by War Anxiety

News about war and its aftermath – the number of lives lost, people losing their homes, and the lack of food and shelter – can be shocking.

War anxiety can:

Trigger new emotions. Watching a global crisis like war unfold can bring up new feelings of uncertainty or stress that you have never felt before. The news may have you worried about how it could affect the economy, jobs, national security, or your loved ones. If this happens, talk to your close friends and family for a reality check. If the news upsets your mental health too much, talk to your doctor.

Increase the need for control. Staying glued to the TV to catch the news or constantly scrolling through social media feeds to seek out more information and stay informed can give you a false sense of control. While staying up to date can help you take precautions in some cases, too much can disrupt your daily routine. Psychologists say it can backfire and increase long-term anxiety.

Instead, experts recommend focusing on things you can control, like your overall well-being. Try:

  • Eat healthy foods
  • Get enough sleep
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • Check your loved ones to stay connected

Worsening mental health. If you have a mental health condition like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or depression, watching too much unpleasant news can make it worse. If so, reduce screen time. Talk to your doctor or therapist if necessary.

How to Manage War Anxiety

It’s understandable that you want to follow media coverage of the war and the news closely. But it’s important to pay attention to how it affects your physical and emotional health. Here are some tips for avoiding triggers and managing anxiety.

You should:

Disable trigger content. Avoid certain topics, words or phrases that can trigger anxiety or stress. Reduce, pause or walk away from certain types of media coverage if the news affects you too much.

Limit the time spent consuming war information. With smartphones, it’s easy to get daily updates, newsletters, notifications, and minute-by-minute alerts on breaking news. This can easily become too much information to handle. Disable or delete certain news sites or apps, especially if they overwhelm you.

Be intentional with the use of social media. In addition to mainstream media coverage, the constant updating or scrolling of social media apps for new angles of war coverage can lead to information overload. You may also be exposed to fake news or misinformation.

Instead, be proactive about the type of content you consume. Be selective about the accounts you follow and stick to trusted sources of information. Delete some of the apps if necessary.

Accept uncertainty. To deal with any worry or stress that war may cause, focus on what you can control. It is completely normal to feel uncertain. To combat it, take care of your health, reduce exposure to negative news, and train yourself to accept your emotions.

Take care. Exercise regularly, eat well, and prioritize sleep. To distract yourself from stress or worry, try doing activities that make you feel good. If you feel alone, ask your friends and family.

When should you get help?

If constant media coverage of war and destruction is affecting your quality of life, or if you find it difficult to follow through on your duties and responsibilities, talk to your doctor.

If you can’t handle the stress, you may need to talk to a mental health professional like a counselor or therapist for help.