«One who has a 'why' to live for can endure almost any 'how'» Victor E. Frankl
Feeling safe is a basic need in a person's life. It is the basis for a healthy psyche. In the context of the state of emergency due to the Russian aggression in Ukraine, this feeling has been eliminated. People suffer from physical threats, information attacks, and loss of homes and relatives. Children suffer the anxiety and fear over something many of them cannot even understand.
When a person faces such stressful circumstances, their body goes into survival mode. All systems become tuned to deal with threats. No one knows in advance how they will behave and feel in these extreme conditions.
However, to one degree or another, everyone experiences the following symptoms:
There are three primitive reactions to stress: fight, flight, freeze.
If the stress is short-lived, it does not cause significant harm to physical or mental health. However, during wartime when we are collectively, severely, and constantly traumatized, it is very difficult to maintain our mental health. But it is crucial that we do! Therefore, personal psychological resilience is the goal.
Psychological resilience is someone’s ability to adapt in the face of trauma, threats, tragedy, or significant loads of stress. The ability to maintain or restore their integrity, balance, self-confidence, find a vital resource, and the will to do all the necessary things for living.
Each of us, depending on the circumstances, experiences a range of negative emotions of varying intensity.
The first are fear and panic, particularly for those who find themselves in locations of active conflict. The situation is really dangerous and there is no psychological technique that would allow you to feel at ease in such circumstances. Do not try to stop being afraid. The more intensely you express your emotions, the faster they will recede. It's like a wave. At the peak of sensations, cry, shout, stamp your feet, jump, clench your fists, breathe deeply. As soon as it starts to let go - lie in the fetal position, hug your legs, and stay like that for a while. Drink water. These actions will help you to start to acting and thinking rationally again. After all, it is the adequacy of action that can save your life. Especially if there are children under your care. Follow the rule as in an airplane: "first put on a mask, only then help others." First, we deal with our panic, only then calm the children and make decisions. This is your direct parental responsibility!
How to calm a frightened child:
Looking into the eyes of the child say the following:
The second emotion is anxiety. Anxiety about your loved ones if they are in danger or out of touch, and you are powerless to help them. There may even be a state of stupor. In moments of despair, faith helps. Faith in God, in the Universe, the higher powers. Pray, recite mantras, meditate, practice positive affirmations. Repeat them aloud or about yourself. If possible, go to your temple, church, or place of worship and pray there.
Some people feel ashamed with survivor's guilt, for being safe or abroad. For not joining the defense of the country. That they are safe, unlike many. But you are not to blame for the military aggression. We are all victims of crimes against humanity. Every one of us. And everyone can express their involvement in different ways. The main thing, in this case, is not to shut yourself in, look for like-minded people with a similar situation and unite with them. You can take part in anti-war actions, you can volunteer, donate to the needs of the army or civilians, help refugees. These are also a very important actions during wartime. Caring is a very healing thing.
The third emotion is anger. Everyone feels deep hatred for the aggressor. This emotion cannot be expressed to the person who caused it. Because of this, we might express anger towards oved ones. We may show aggression towards strangers or random people nearby. But they do not deserve it. It is very important for our psyche not to restrain anger. This prevents severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Instead, try to release it through objects. Beat pillow, break a glass, tell someone, or write your angriest thoughts on a piece of paper, in detail and without censorship. Then, burn it or tear it to pieces.
Psychological resilience is the search for a resource in any available sources:
"A person can be deprived of all but one thing: the last freedom of man - to choose their own attitude to any circumstances, to choose their own path" - Victor E. Frankl