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.
Post-traumatic stress disorder in the conditions of war (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental disorder that can develop after a traumatic event. About 8% of men and 20% of women who have experienced traumatic events have PTSD.
Who can get PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop in people who:
- lost relatives, friends, brothers in the war;
- saw the killed;
- were or are under shelling or bombing;
- worried about relatives or friends who are in danger;
- felt abandoned, alone or betrayed;
- witnessed a terrorist attack;
- were captured or were surrounded.
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
- constant and uncontrolled thoughts about traumatic events, dreams about them;
- feeling of constant danger;
- excessive excitation;
- avoiding mentions about the trauma;
- panic attacks: a feeling of fear, shallow breathing, nausea, rapid heartbeat, chest pain;
- overuse of alcohol, cigarettes or drugs;
- troubles in everyday life;
- problems in the relationship, distancing from the partner;
- suicidal thoughts;
- inability to express and show emotions: crying, feeling happy, sympathizing
How is PTSD treated?
Above all, remember: PTSD is a treatable disorder. And after the course of treatment, you will be able to live your everyday life again, show emotions, feel joy and feel protected.
Treatment includes psychotherapy and medication.
If symptoms of PTSD appear:
See your family doctor, psychiatrist, or mental health professional.
Take care of basic needs: physical safety, availability of food, drinking water, etc. Resume sleep mode. Let government agencies and humanitarian organizations know about your needs so that they can provide you with what you need in a timely manner.
Avoid alcohol and other harmful substances. It will not help to forget the horror, but there is a risk that addiction will develop.
Contact your loved ones, friends, relatives, let them know that you are alive, discuss your experience with them, share your worries and feelings. If you are afraid that your stories might traumatize them, ask them if they are ready to hear everything that happened. Most likely, you will get a positive answer.
Get in touch with other people who have had similar experiences, such as neighbors. Share these tips with them.
Be prepared for changes in the mental state: after a few days of relief, a state of devastation, exhaustion, and fatigue may occur. This is a completely normal reaction to the excessive stress you have been under all this time. Your organism should be given an opportunity to recover.
Stop the feeling of guilt. You may feel anger and hatred, disgust, etc. All negative emotions directed at the enemy and the occupier are natural and have the right to exist. What was done to us deserves hatred and anger. However, if you feel guilty, you should stop it. The enemy is to blame for what has happened to you. Feelings should be directed exactly on him.
Quick self-help methods for PTSD
These techniques can be useful both for personal use and when working with people with PTSD.
Grounding technique: exercise “here and now”
Reorient yourself in space and time by asking yourself some or all of the following questions:
- Where am i?
- What day is it today?
- What date is today?
- What month is it today?
- What year?
- How old am i?
- What time of year is it now?
Stabilization exercise: anti-stress breathing 4:8
Try to breathe slowly. Inhale (count 1-2-3-4) — pause (hold your breath for 1-2) — exhale (count 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8). It is important that the exhalation is twice as long. Do this exercise at least 10 times. Imagine that you are “exhaling” the tension.
- Describe in detail the environment around you (“The walls are white. Five pink chairs, a wooden bookshelf against the wall…”)
- Describe your everyday activities in detail (for example, step-by-step preparation of a meal…).
- Say an affirmation of safety: “My name is… I am safe, I am here and now, not in the past.”
- Count to 10, 100, count backwards, you can sing or recite a poem.
- Run cool or warm water on your hands.
- Pat yourself on the shoulders or hips, move your big toes, stretch, turn your head, clench and unclench your fists, straighten your fingers. Press your heels into the floor and notice how they tense up.
- Pay attention to your body (the weight of the body on the chair, how the chair presses on the body…)
- Touch your “grounding” object (such as a chair) after having a negative reaction to something.
Stabilization technique in imagination: exercise “Safe place”
Imagine a place where you feel good and safe, try to feel where you are sitting, what you see, what it smells like, what pleasant taste you feel, what music sounds.
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
slowing down thought processes, reducing the critical thinking and its depths
decreased interest in work
increased blood pressure and heart rate
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 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
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
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
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