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March 14, 2022

These Tragic Times are taking a Toll on our Mental Health.

War, crisis, and tragedy are happening right now in Eastern Europe.

It seems like we have been in constant turmoil, going from one devastating encounter to another. For the past 2.5 years, with our hearts anguished with sorrow, we’ve watched in distress as millions of people worldwide fought alone and lost their lives to COVID-19. And now, as we navigate the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we are re-experiencing the trauma and stress all over again.

Unfortunately, the situation is getting worse in Ukraine. According to a recent article in The Washington Post, three people have died, and seventeen were injured in Mariupol, Ukraine. In addition, a maternity hospital was destroyed in Russia’s airstrike. It was a place where people should have felt safe while receiving care and treatment.

As Americans, we continue to show solidarity, unity, and love to the Ukrainian people. However, this unwanted and unnecessary war is causing so much pain and suffering.

Sadly, during the past weeks, harrowing videos of families shaken by the war and in need of humanitarian assistance have been circulating all over social media and news stations—and they have left us feeling intensely frustrated.

Furthermore, it is heartbreaking to watch families in distress forced to flee their homes and leave everything behind to reach safety in bomb shelters. But, as we know, unlike other world leaders of this generation, Russian President Putin is more interested in displaying his total disregard for human life.

This bloodshed war seems to be a horrible dream. Still, it is factual and not a dream—especially when the president of Russia, who seems to be entirely out of his mind, keeps on threatening to use his nuclear weapons if any country gets involved; he affirmed this during a recent speech.

“WARSAW, Poland (AP) — It has been a long time since the threat of using nuclear weapons has been brandished so openly by a world leader, but Vladimir Putin has just done it, warning in a speech that he has the if anyone dares to use military means to try to stop Russia’s takeover of Ukraine,” an article on PBS News Hour has stated.

Watching so many people worldwide, from different cultures and backgrounds, showing patriotism and support to Ukrainians has been inspiring for so many of us. But this past week’s events—with the Russia-Ukraine invasion and Putin warning the world not to get involved—have triggered anxiety for so many Americans.

With all the madness happening in our world, if you feel stressed out and have increasingly racing thoughts going through your mind, you are not alone. In addition, you may find that racing thoughts interfere with your overall well-being and ability to function in day-to-day life, making you feel anxious and unable to stay focused on work.

An article in Psychology Today has stated that racing thoughts can be attributed to anxiety or other mental illness. “Racing thoughts—fast, repetitive thought patterns about a particular topic—are a common feature of anxiety and other mental health disorders.”

During this challenging time, our bodies have been in fight-or-flight mode. The fear of the unknown is undoubtedly elevating our anxiety. Notice that the faster your brain tries to absorb so much, the more rapid your heartbeat increases. Hence, the tension headaches that many of us have been experiencing during the past two weeks can negatively affect our mental and physical health if we are not careful.

The American Heart Association and physicians have clearly stated that stress can increase our chance of heart disease. However, with so many uncertainties with the current war situation, we’re feeling on edge, and if you are a more empathetic person, you may be profoundly feeling the emotional pain.

More than ever, lowering our stress level is essential, and we can never underestimate the positive effects of a deep breath. Keep in mind what your doctor has been reminding you: that exercise and relaxation are necessary to keep our blood pressure and stress levels low. So, right now, it is not a good idea to skip your regular workout or to drink substantial amounts of alcohol to numb the emotional pain and anxiety—it will only make you feel worse.

It can be difficult watching news with non-stop coverage of the war. It can make us feel helpless and hopeless. But, on the other hand, we need to understand that we cannot change what is happening in Ukraine. Even though we are sympathetic to the ongoing tragedy, we must remember our own mental health and self-preservation.

An encouraging message from Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska, is that Ukrainians only want peace. She also said that Ukrainians would not give up. In recent weeks, watching stories, seeing pictures, and reading posts, most every one of us is in agreement that this asinine war needs to end. We understand the importance of not being silent, and we will continue to share with the world that Ukraine wants peace.

During these dark times, we understand the situation with the war is not improving. It is heartbreaking what is happening over in Ukraine. Watching so many people who are suffering under an unstable instigator’s attack has not been easy for so many of us. We feel many negative emotions, such as sadness, anger, and anxiety, just like we did at the beginning of Covid.

Right now, with what’s happening in the world, we must take a moment to take care of our mental health. During the pandemic, to keep the mind calm, many people engaged in activities such as yoga, Tai chi, and mindfulness meditation to reduce stress and anxiety. In addition, some people, including myself, play calming video games such as Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley, which have been proven to reduce stress.

I encourage everyone who has been struggling with the world’s events to remember those self-care practices so that we can continue to show up for ourselves and a world in crisis.

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