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Anxiety triggered by adverse world events

When news breaks and we see images of death and destruction in the media it can be overwhelming. For some people this can affect emotional health and triggers symptoms of stress and anxiety. The reduced emotional health typically stems from worrying the same things may happen where you live or to your loved ones.

Triggered symptoms

News about warfare and its consequences – the number of lives lost, people losing their homes, and lack of food and shelter – can be extremely disturbing and can trigger new emotions as we watch a global crisis like the war in the Ukraine unfold. The news may make a person worry about the economy of the nation, national security, or their loved ones as well as concerns for the people directly impacted by the war. Talking to family and friends can help but if your mental health is being impacted you may need to discuss it with a GP. Staying glued to the TV for news updates or constantly scrolling through social media feeds to seek more information and stay informed can give you a false sense of control. While staying up to date can help you take precautions in certain instances, too much of it may disrupt your daily routine. Psychologists say this can backfire and increase anxiety in the long term. You may wish to access further information from this link on how to improve your symptoms https://patient.info/news-and-features/how-to-cope-with-news-related-anxiety

Instead, experts recommend focusing on things you can control, such as your general well-being. Try to:

  • Eat healthily
  • Get enough sleep
  • Check on your loved ones to stay connected

If you have a pre-existing mental health condition like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, watching distressing news can worsen it. If this does happen, then limit screen time and talk to your GP or talking therapist. Further information can be found in this link https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/gp-visit-guide

Self help

It’s understandable that you want to closely follow news coverage about war and current events. But it’s important to pay attention to how it affects your physical and emotional health. Here are a few tips to avoid triggers and manage anxiety.

You should:

Mute triggering content – Avoid certain topics, words, or phrases that can trigger anxiety or stress. Cut back, pause, or step away from certain types of news coverage if the news affects you too much.

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

Be intentional with social media use – Besides mainstream news coverage, constantly refreshing or scrolling through social media apps for new angles on war coverage can cause information overload. You may also become exposed to fake news or misinformation.

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

Accept uncertainty  To deal with worry or stress war may cause, focus on what you can control. It’s completely normal to feel uncertain. To combat it, take care of your health, lessen exposure to negative news, and practice accepting your emotions.

Practise self-care – Regularly exercise, eat well, and prioritize sleep. To take your mind off stress or worry, try doing activities that make you feel good. If you’re feeling lonely, check in with your friends and family. Getting back to the basics is important when managing anxiety symptoms. Think about how you’re sleeping, if you’re drinking enough water, if you’re moving your body every day (if you’re able-bodied and can do so), eating well, etc. Sleep issues can often manifest as depression or anxiety symptoms. Making sure you can get a strong foundation for your mental health by taking care of your basic needs as best you can be a good line of prevention for mental health conditions. Regarding eating well, consider your caffeine intake. Experiment to see how your anxiety symptoms are with that cup of coffee, and see how your anxiety symptoms feel if you switch to caffeine-free or decaf for a while (you might notice a decrease in anxiety symptoms, but everyone is different)If constant news coverage about war and destruction is affecting your quality of life, or you find it difficult to continue with your duties and responsibilities, tell your doctor about it.

If you can’t manage the stress, you may need to speak with a mental health professional like a counsellor or therapist for help.

Lean on loved ones – Having a good support system can be incredibly important if you are finding it difficult to know how to deal with your feeling about the war. Surrounding yourself with people who can understand and support you is beneficial. Anxiety can create feelings of isolation and spending valuable time with people who love and care about you can be beneficial.

If you are a parent or guardian caring for children or loved ones who are feeling anxious, finding age-appropriate ways of talking to them and supporting them through this can be beneficial. More information on how to talk to children about war can be found here https://www.unicef.org/parenting/how-talk-your-children-about-conflict-and-war

If you feel that your war/ adverse event anxiety is increasing or becoming something, you can’t manage on your own, reach out for help with your mental health. You can talk to your doctor or a mental health specialist. Remember you are not on your own. There are other people experiencing similar issues as you. It is not unusual to have these fears, worries or anxiety when we are confronted with adverse events. Here at Staywell we can provide support and a formal assessment if employees symptoms are affecting their performance/attendance at work.

Further information can be accessed from the links below

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/talking-therapies-medicine-treatments/talking-therapies-and-counselling/nhs-talking-therapies/

https://patient.info/treatment-medication/self-referral/refer-yourself-for-nhs-talking-therapy-counselling

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/talking-therapy-and-counselling/about-talking-therapies/

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/talking-therapies-medicine-treatments/talking-therapies-and-counselling/self-help-therapies/

https://www.savethechildren.org/us/charity-stories/how-to-explain-conflict-ukraine-to-children

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/children-and-young-adults/advice-for-parents/talk-to-children-about-feelings/


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