Psychological state and mental health during the war are extremely important. Many people suffer from exhaustion, devastation, fatigue, anxiety and panic. Psychologists have formulated useful tips on how to master yourself in critical conditions, how to help the loved ones and look after your mental health in such critical conditions.

How to deal with fatigue

During the war, our body works at the maximum capacity. Stress hormones, which task is to mobilize the body in a critical situation, also have their “expiration date”. You may observe strong mood swings from anxiety, anger, a rush of optimism to complete devastation and exhaustion. It is important to realize that these are perfectly natural states that substitute each other from time to time. You can and should work with each of them.

The main signs of fatigue:

  • feeling of exhaustion, inability to perform normal functions
  • inattention and loss of concentration
  • memory impairment
  • slowing down thought processes, reducing the critical thinking and its depths
  • decreased interest in work
  • increased irritability
  • nervousness
  • sleep disorders
  • permanent drowsiness
  • increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • headache
  • decreased appetite
  • emotional devastation

Methods of dealing with fatigue:

  • Proper sleep, which, according to the Ministry of Health, should be at least 7 hours a day for adults and 8-10 hours for children and adolescents.
  • Information noise limitation. Refrain from constantly updating the news feed, read the news on a schedule, for example, for 15 minutes in the morning, at lunch and in the evening. Trust only verified sources of information.
  • Regular meals.
  • Regular physical activity. Any regular physical activity, even walking or stretching, will give you vitality. A walk in the fresh air will be better than training indoors.
  • To the extent possible, maintain a regular routine, habits and personal hygiene.
  • Change of activity. Try to rationally allocate time for work and rest, physical and mental work.
  • Prioritization. Realize that no one is able to do everything, so identify 3-5 main tasks for yourself every day and allow yourself to do nothing extra.
  • Friendly relationships with people around you: family, work colleagues, volunteer community or fellow soldiers. Keep in touch, call or email your relatives and close ones regularly.
  • Physical contact. Breathe together, hold each other’s hands. Hug your loved ones.
  • Optimism and sense of humor. Joke! Humor is always supportive, even in harsh life circumstances.
  • Remember that staying alive and healthy is already a lot.
  • Do not set end dates for the war. We all want it to end, but if your predictions do not come true – it will be emotionally difficult for you, and you will feel hopeless. So settle in for the long haul.
  • Remember what is dear and important to you, remember what is the meaning of your life. Make plans for the future, determine what is the most important for you when peace comes.
  • Professional help. Seek the support of professional psychologists. If you do not have the opportunity to turn to a professional – ask your relatives and friends for help.

How to deal with panic and anxiety

Panic is an attack of severe fear, anxiety and feelings of inner tension. Panic paralyzes a person or, conversely, pushes a person to reckless actions. During the panic, the opposite reactions are observed: one wants to run, the other – on the contrary, to hide in the corner. It is important to remember that this is the state in which the enemy wants to see us, because it makes us the most vulnerable, so it is necessary to take measures to restore a normal mental state.

Key symptoms of panic:

  • palpitations, rapid pulse, sweating
  • chills, tremor
  • shortness of breath
  • pain or discomfort in the left side of the chest
  • nausea, pain or “knot” in the abdomen, dizziness
  • feeling of alienation, unreality of the world
  • fear of committing an uncontrolled act
  • acute fear of imminent death
  • numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • insomnia

Methods of combating panic:

  • use sedative breathing techniques, for example, “3-7-8”: 3 seconds for inhalation, 7 seconds for holding breath and 8 seconds for exhalation
  • lie down and put your hands on your stomach, take deep breaths and short exhales, control your breathing
  • use a square breathing (find something square in the room (or imagine it). Look at one of the corners of the square and take a deep breath, hold your breath for 5 seconds and look at the other corner exhaling, move in such a way along the square; repeat several times, this will allow you to balance your breathing and control your anxiety if you feel that it is getting worse
  • “ground” yourself; stand or sit on the floor, feel your touching the surface, feel the weight of your own body and breathe slowly
  • return to the feeling of the body; feel what you are sitting on and how your feet feel, concentrate on certain sound or on the smell; if you’re driving, focus on what your hands are holding
  • do self-massage; touch the body, clap your feet with your hands, massage your ears, nose, palms; revive the hardened body
  • strain the body; take an uncomfortable position and try to strain all the muscles of the body as much as possible, stay in this position as long as possible
  • give way to emotions; cry, sing
  • use pungent odors – alcohol, citrus, etc.
  • wash with cold water
  • direct panic into safe actions; if you want to run – run on the spot, if you want to hide in a corner – hide in a corner
  • do not drink alcohol
  • take herbal sedatives (valerian, motherwort); do not use prescription drugs without consulting a doctor!
  • if someone else panics wrap the person in a warm blanket, give a warm drink, remind the basic things: who he or she is, what he or she does here, who is next to him or her, what is the person’s name

How to deal with apathy

Acute panic attacks and anxiety are usually followed by feeling of apathy. Such periods may be short, but they also need to be worked out with. It is important to remember that apathy is a natural “chemical” setback after a surge of stress hormones.

Methods of overcoming apathy:

  • act; do any simple actions and do not try to analyze them
  • follow a daily routine; regular nutrition, hygiene, warm-up
  • do something with your hands; for example, wash dishes, pack things, weave a net
  • plan your tasks for the day; let them be few, but try to do them no matter what
  • limit access to information; reading news should be limited to a few short periods a day
  • involve relatives and acquaintances in joint work

How to maintain a close relationship

In critical situations, relationships with loved ones are severely tested. Try to maintain relationships and help your loved ones, because it increases your ability to survive and resist, as well as gives meaning to your actions.

  • direct the negative emotions that arise not on loved ones but on the external enemy
  • load yourself with work and helping others
  • give way to emotions; shout, sing, cry
  • move, dance, warm up, walk
  • hug
  • keep in touch, ask how your friends and family are, call and text them
  • offer your help
  • cook together and eat slowly
  • keep the rituals of peaceful life as much as possible in the current conditions: read books, set the table, organize a joint tea party

How to help those who are paralyzed by anxiety

If someone close to you is experiencing excessive destabilizing anxiety or panic attacks, take the following steps:

  • do not directly and physically contact the person
  • speak to the person
  • speak clearly and firmly
  • remind the person in a calm voice that he or she is in a safe place (if so)
  • focus the person’s attention on what you can see, hear and feel around
  • do not ask, but instead give instructions, such as: “Look at me. Say your name. Tell me where you are. Get up. Drink”
  • make sure that the person starts to do all the basic things itself

How to get rid of guilt

Under normal circumstances, a person has time to understand the feeling of guilt and deal with it properly, i. e. to identify possible mistakes, correct them and understand how to avoid them in the future. In critical conditions, it is quite difficult to deal with guilt, and it can have a very negative impact on a person’s psychological state, depress him or her and paralyze the activities.

How to deal with guilt:

  • do not start blaming yourself; you did not start this war
  • first of all take care of yourself and stay safe, your direct responsibility today is to take care of yourself and not to create unnecessary trouble for the Armed Forces, to reduce the burden on them so that they could fully perform their duties
  • switch your attention to what you can do right here and now
  • become useful; ask how people close to you and those who are in need may benefit from your physical presence, your knowledge and skills
  • make a list of tasks that you will do right now; undertake only those matters which will now be within your power
  • help with what you can; learn what you do not know yet and what is easy for you

Toxic guilt is very difficult to overcome. If you need help – turn to specialists, take care of yourself.

Where to address for psychological support

With the support of the National Psychological Association, volunteer psychologists have created a psychological support center “How are you?” for those who suffer from recent events and experience constant stress, anxiety and worry. You can apply for support free of charge, at any time of the day. To receive psychological help, fill out the form.

“Tell Me” is a free online platform for psychological counseling. The team of the platform helps everyone who needs emotional support, provides advice and helps in connection with the rapid changes that are currently taking place in the economy, society and life of everyone. You can ask for help through the initiative’s website.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has launched a hotline for support. Calls are free of charge: 0-800-300-155

Important information for the media, bloggers and all citizens who photograph or write about war and the army

According to the ORDER of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, GENERAL VALERY ZALUZHNY:

What is categorically prohibited to be covered by the mass media during wartime:

  • names of bases and subdivisions, as well as their locations

  • the number of soldiers in bases and units

  • the number of weapons and equipment, their condition and place of storage

  • conditional marks of objects

Any information about:

  •  operations carried out or planned

  • system of protection and defense of military units

  • available military protection such as: weapons and equipment(except visible or obviously expressed)

  • procedure for engaging forces (military) and facilities (weapons)

  • intelligence gathering

  • movement and deployment of troops (names, numbers, routes)

  • military units and their tactics, methods of action

  • unique operations and their execution methods

  • the effectiveness of the enemy’s electronic warfare

  • postponed or canceled operations

  • missing or crashed aircraft, ship and search and rescue operations

  • plans for the security of our troops (disinformation, camouflage, countermeasures)

  • informational and psychological operations carried out or planned

  • propaganda or justification of russia’s large-scale armed aggression against Ukraine.

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