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5 Ways to Care for Your Mental Health During Troubling Times of Global Conflict

Dr Jessica Yu

Written by Jessica Yu, Ph.D.

Published 10/27/2023

The world is upset.

Ongoing conflict has captured the attention of an international audience. Seemingly everywhere I turn, people are in angst. My patients tell me their hearts are heavy. Family and friends tell me they are desperate for peace. 

Why does global conflict pierce the hearts of so many?

Humanitarian crises and major cultural, historical and political events expose us to our greatest vulnerabilities as human beings. They put a spotlight on the craziness of this world, the hate and hurt that exist around us, the unfairness of life, and the frailty of the human experience.

They leave us feeling anxious, sad, hopeless, restless or otherwise in despair. And they create an angst in us that we carry in our minds, bodies and souls, and that can have lasting effects on our mental and physical health.

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Indeed, decades of research on trauma has found that exposure to traumatic events is associated with a host of emotional and physical symptoms, including emotional dysregulation, numbing, excessive guilt, cognitive errors, perceived loneliness, sleep difficulties, cardiovascular problems and gastrointestinal issues.

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In such times, is there a way to protect our mental health?

Thankfully, the answer is yes. Here are some suggestions that can help you maintain your mental health during this and other global crises:

  1. Be mindful of your media consumption. News has an insidious way of infiltrating our lives because there are so many ways of receiving it, via television, radio, the internet, social media and more. Limit your exposure to the news by focusing on a subset (e.g., two or three) sources and try not to spend more than 30 minutes a day digesting it. That way, you can remain informed of what’s happening and continue offering empathy and support to those in need while also looking after yourself.

  2. Make room for the good in your life. Difficult world events can activate our sense of guilt. We may compare our lives to those less fortunate and feel guilty for having our health, happiness and/or safety. These events can also remind us of our own traumatic experiences and increase our anxiety, agitation and depression. When this happens, it’s important to practice mindfulness and gratitude for what we have and to actively engage in the things that bring us joy.

  3. Remember to take care of your physical body. When we feel distraught, we often neglect to do things that are simply good for our health. Remember to take care of your physical self by eating regular and nutritious meals, getting daily exercise, getting adequate sleep and limiting alcohol intake. The mind and body are intimately connected, which means engaging in good physical self-care will help you maintain your emotional and mental health.

  4. Check in on your loved ones. Remember that most of the world is feeling rattled. Ask your family members, friends, loved ones, co-workers and neighbors how they’re doing. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you’ve been feeling. Let them share their thoughts and feelings. And be open to discussing ways you can further support each other.

  5. Consider engaging in an ancient Buddhist practice known as the loving-kindness meditation to express your compassion and symbolically provide those near and far with love and support.

Begin by taking a few moments to breathe, to center yourself. Then bring to mind a person you greatly adore. Embrace them, give them a gentle touch, and offer them these words of loving kindness—

May you be safe.

May you be whole.

May you find strength in this time of suffering.

Continue bringing to mind those to whom you wish to offer loving kindness—family, friends, strangers and communities in distant lands. Embrace them, give them a gentle touch, and offer them these words of loving kindness—

May you be safe.

May you be whole.

May you find strength in this time of suffering.

Lastly, offer loving kindness to yourself. Embrace yourself in a hug, give yourself a gentle pat on the back, and tell yourself—

May I be safe.

May I be whole.

May I find strength in this time of suffering.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

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