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Stressed by what’s going on in Ukraine? How to cope – and help

0 2 years ago

Disturbing. Inspiring. Gut-wrenching. Faith-restoring. Anxiety-provoking.

The news and social media posts from Ukraine and neighboring countries are all of the above, and more.

And that has many people feeling distressed, even from thousands of miles away.

That’s especially true for people with a personal or ancestral connection to Ukraine or other nearby countries – or to other conflict zones where refugees have fled their homes in recent years but haven’t received as much attention. Reports of racial discrimination against refugees of color at some border crossings has compounded the trauma too.

And younger people, who don’t have direct memories of the Cold War, may also be especially on edge about the potential implications of this conflict.

No matter what your heritage or age, the new Ukraine-related stress comes just as our nation comes down from a dizzying height on the two-year roller coaster ride of COVID-19. Many people still have unprocessed anxiety, grief and loss.

So, with all this going on, what can you do?

Two experts from Michigan Medicine – psychiatrist Michelle Riba, M.D., M.S., and internal medicine physician Michele Heisler, M.D., M.P.A., – offer some tips and advice. Heisler is also medical director of Physicians for Human Rights, an international health and human rights organization.

If you’re glued to the news, unstick a bit

It can be hard to look away from the news about Ukraine, with such compelling images and video, so much happening and so many ways to get news.

But, says Riba, it’s important to pull yourself away. Remind yourself that you don’t have to know everything that’s going on, and set time limits for yourself to consume news from reputable sources. Turn off app notifications.

“Veterans, especially those with diagnosed or undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, may especially be triggered by these scenes,” she said. “If you have young children around, it’s important to share what’s going on in terms they can understand, but shield them from seeing too much on a TV that happens to be on while they’re near. If they see the same footage played repeatedly, they may think the events are happening over and over again, which we saw with 9/11 and other major events.”


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