Cultivating mental health in wartime

Amany Abdel-Moneim , Tuesday 28 Nov 2023

Feeling stressed, sad, and anxious about the current brutal attacks just means you are human. It’s horrific to see the present kind of violence, and it can make you unable to concentrate at work or fall asleep at night



Feeling overwhelmed and distressed at the latest news cycle? Well, you’re not alone.  Feeling stressed, sad, and anxious about the current brutal attacks just means you are human. 

It’s horrific to see the present kind of violence, and it can make you unable to concentrate at work or fall asleep at night.

As the situation in Gaza continues to unfold, many people far from the conflict are being exposed to images, stories, and sounds of the conflict via television and radio news reports, newspaper and digital stories, and of course social media.

No doubt, we want to be aware and better informed. But psychiatrists warn that consuming violent and traumatic news, engaging in angry and fearful conversations, or isolating ourselves to avoid pain can all negatively affect our mental health.

While some people are more vulnerable than others to developing an acute stress reaction or even post-traumatic stress disorder, the ongoing war on Gaza can feel personal and terrifying. Here are some tips that can help you to safeguard your mental health during these challenging times.


Limiting media intake:

While staying informed is important, excessive exposure to news and social media can heighten stress levels. Limiting media consumption, particularly graphic content related to war and conflict, can help prevent emotional overload and unnecessary anxiety. Set specific times to check the news and focus on reliable sources to stay informed without becoming overwhelmed.

Establishing a support network:

Surrounding yourself with trusted friends, family, and community members can provide a sense of belonging and emotional support. Sharing experiences, thoughts, and concerns with others who understand can alleviate feelings of isolation and promote a sense of unity.


Engaging in mindfulness and meditation:

Practising mindfulness and meditation techniques can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety. Engage in deep-breathing exercises, guided meditation, or yoga to promote relaxation and enhance mental clarity. These practices can improve resilience, allowing individuals to better cope with the challenges they face.


Practising self-care:

Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time in nature. Taking care of your physical health by maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding excessive consumption of substances can have a positive impact on your mental well-being.


Maintaining a routine:

Creating and maintaining a routine can offer stability and a sense of control during tumultuous times. Establishing regular sleep patterns and mealtimes and engaging in daily activities can provide a framework for our lives, reducing anxiety and uncertainty.


Engaging in meaningful activities:

Participating in activities that provide a sense of purpose and meaning can be particularly beneficial during trying times. Engage in volunteer work, creative pursuits, or community initiatives that align with your values. Contributing to a cause greater than oneself can foster a sense of hope and empowerment.


Connecting with nature:

Nature has a profound impact on mental well-being. Even amidst the chaos of conflict, finding solace in nature can be transformative. Take walks in green spaces, tend to a garden, or simply observe the beauty of the natural world. Connecting with nature can offer moments of respite and tranquility, helping to restore a sense of peace.


Seeking professional help:

When faced with such challenging times, seeking professional help should never be overlooked. Mental health professionals, including therapists and counsellors, can provide valuable guidance and support. They can help individuals navigate the emotional toll of war and develop coping mechanisms to deal with stress, trauma, and grief.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 30 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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