The conflict in Ukraine is dominating the headlines this week, and with the onslaught of worrying images and upsetting news updates, it's natural to feel anxious.
While many of us experience anxiety on a day-to-day basis, it can feel unmanageable in times of uncertainty and can manifest itself in different ways, as TV doctor Sarah Jarvis explains. "Some people feel an uncontrollable sense of dread or recurring worries about the future. Some have difficulty concentrating or an inability to relax. Others feel tense and have difficulty sleeping.
"Whatever your symptoms may be, there is a general feeling of tension, nervousness, panic, and worry that cause you to feel anxious."
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Dr Jarvis recognises there's not a fix-all cure for anxiety, explaining: "Not all experiences or symptoms warrant prescription medication. As such I welcome a range of treatment and support options, including pharmaceutical quality lavender oil capsules and other non-prescription options such as mindfulness and talking therapies.”
If the distressing news cycle is weighing heavily on your mind, here are five ways to cope.
1. Take a break from the news.
We absorb more news than ever before, with 24-hour broadcasts on top of social media posts and radio updates.
When faced with anxiety about what feels like a constant cycle of negative news, the best approach can be to step away and take a break from these reports, at least for a while.
Turn off notifications on your phone, avoid prime-time TV news slots and avoid listening to radio updates, if only for a few hours.
Go for a walk and leave your phone at home or try a mindful activity such as reading, colouring or meditation. Exercise is also a great tool for distracting your mind from worrying content – you can't check your phone while you're in a spin class!
Turn off notifications when you're feeling on edge
2. Avoid dwelling on things you can't control
When uncertainty strikes, many people immediately imagine the worst-case scenario.
Get out of the habit of ruminating on negative thoughts. Instead, focus on the things that are within your control, even if it’s as simple as weekly meal planning. Establish routines to give your days and weeks some comforting structure.
Uncertain times make many of us feel more anxious
3. Search for positive news
When it feels as though a barrage of bad news can reach us all too easily, we sometimes need to make an effort to find positive news. This can help counteract news-related anxiety.
While we may feel that it is our responsibility to understand what is going wrong in the world so that we can find a way to fix it, it is also very important to find out what is going well so that we feel motivated, hopeful, and uplifted.
On his BBC Radio 1 breakfast show, Greg James makes a point of finding positive news to share each morning too, from the silly to the uplifting.
4. Try breathwork
It sounds simple, but how you breathe can have a huge positive impact on anxiety. Controlling and slowing your breath takes your body out of fight or flight mode, which makes you panic.
Try breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, breathing out for four seconds, and holding your breath for four seconds. Imagine a square while you're doing this breath practice, breathing in, out and holding your breath for the length of each side until you feel your breathing start to slow.
There are some great breathwork practitioners online – try BreatheWithJames on Instagram.
5. Try anti-anxiety supplements
Dr Sarah Jarvis recommends Kalms Lavender capsules. Lavender oil has a long-standing association with relieving symptoms of mild anxiety, such as stress and nervousness.
Other soothing ingredients include magnolia rhodiola complex, which is a herbal supplement that eases stress, anxiety and low mood by lowering cortisol levels within the body.
There are many supplements that can help with anxiety
Another option is ashwagandha, which is loved by Meghan Markle. This is an ancient Indian herb that is part of the adaptogens family, meaning it helps the body adapt to stress. Taking ashwagandha delivers a low daily dose of stress to the body, so when you encounter something stressful, your body is primed to help. Don't start taking this when you're already stressed as it can add to your anxiety. Instead, begin supplementing it at a time you're feeling calm, so the next time you do feel anxious, your body is better prepared.
If you're keen to try Ashwagandha, we recommend Together Health's Ashwagandha, £9.98 for 30 capsules.
Together Health Ashwagandha, £9.98, Amazon
6. Try to make a difference
When you can’t stop worrying about a situation it's hard to think about anything else. Taking concrete steps to help Ukraine will benefit the country and maybe help with anxiety too.
What can I do to help Ukraine?
If you are looking to see what you can do to help the Ukrainian people here are a few ways you can get involved:
British Red Cross:
Following the events in Ukraine, the British Red Cross have launched an emergency appeal, stating "Communities are bearing the brunt of eight long years of conflict. We are very concerned about the recent intensification of fighting in Ukraine over the past few days."
You can donate at donate.redcross.org.uk/appeal/ukraine-crisis-appeal
International Medical Corps:
The International Medical Corps is responding to the conflict by expanding access to medical and mental health services for those living in affected communities in Ukraine. According to their website "Your gift today can help more [Ukrainian] people receive the lifesaving care they deserve."
You can donate at give.internationalmedicalcorps.org
UNICEF is rapidly stepping up emergency response efforts throughout the country, providing critical supplies, access to safe water, child protection and more. "Heavy weapons fire along the line of contact has already damaged critical water infrastructure and education facilities in recent days," UNICEF Executive Director Catherine M. Russell said in a statement on February 24. "Unless the fighting subsides, tens of thousands of families could be displaced, dramatically escalating humanitarian needs."
You can donate at unicef.org.uk/donate/donate-now-to-protect-children-in-ukraine
Non-profit foundation CARE works around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice. Their Ukraine Crisis Fund aims to reach 4 million with immediate aid and recovery, food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support, and cash assistance to families fleeing violence — prioritising women and girls, families, and the elderly. Your emergency gift of a donation supports CARE’s mission.
You can donate at my.care.org/site/Donation2