Written by Dr Bear, Clinical Psychologist and Wellbeing Director for youHQ
It’s been impossible for teachers and students alike to escape the distressing news of the invasion of Ukraine. Even if you are not directly involved in the conflict itself, it can have a profound impact on people’s emotional health. Check out these five important tips to help manage the effects of the news on your wellbeing.
(Some of the below is useful for children, however, I find this Newsround video beneficial for younger pupils. These tips are predominately to help parent and teacher wellbeing.)
In the age of phones and smart watches, information is available at our fingertips with no automatic “off” switch. We are exposed to stress-inducing, saddening, and anxiety-provoking news stories, videos, and images, often without a clear sense of when to step back.
You may think simply reading or watching isn’t harmful – but we can experience stress as a result of our well-developed capacity for imagination, empathy, and compassion.
You don’t need to read every article to stay informed of what’s going on. It’s ok to say no to hearing more. Try to develop a sense of how much news content is enough for you. Set timers for news apps and social media, limit push notifications to a certain number a day, or switch channels to protect your wellbeing.
Our ability to connect and relate to others means we might naturally feel distressed by the conflict for a myriad of reasons.
It’s ok to feel upset, worried and angry about what’s happening in Ukraine. Telling yourself or others you shouldn’t be affected is like holding back a wave in the sea. It’s exhausting and ineffective.
As a teacher, you’re able to tell your pupils that it’s ok to experience these emotions. Grant yourself the same kindness. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that comes up; name it if that helps, and offer yourself the comfort you need.
Humans are social creatures inherently dependent on one another to survive. We have an inner motivation to feel connected with others to give us a sense of safety and closeness.
Prioritise this in a form that works for you; it doesn’t need to be face-to-face, but it is important to feel close to people you care for during times of uncertainty and distress.
We often get stuck trying to wrestle with and push unwanted feelings away. It can feel like an exhausting battle, leaving us drained and hopeless.
Rather than trying to push these feelings away, engage in activities that might promote more positive emotional experiences.
If I’m feeling down, I have to consider what might lift my spirits. If I’m feeling wound tight, what might help soothe and bring me down? It won’t necessarily address the cause, but it does give your mind and body a break, and prevents those aversive feelings from escalating.
The news can leave us feeling helpless and powerless. Contributing to relief efforts (if you are able to) can be a positive and proactive way to manage your feelings from the news of the conflict.
There are numerous ways to help. Many schools are currently raising money and resources to aid Ukraine – look into local efforts to see if you can contribute.
You could donate to a reputable charity, sign petitions, write to your local MP, or donate clothing/resources. You could simply make space to reach out to friends and family affected by the conflict. It all counts.
If you can, and would like to donate, the British Red Cross and Save the Children are both fundraising for Ukraine on behalf of the Disasters Emergency Committee (or you could donate directly to the DEC here). World Central Kitchen is also fundraising to feed Ukrainians remaining in and fleeing from their homeland.