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The recent events in Afghanistan have left many across the globe feeling distressed, scared, and profoundly sad. Many are experiencing grief–for the people who have been impacted by the conflict, the lives that have been lost, and the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been displaced and left without a home. The violence that is unfolding may also be triggering for military service members, veterans, and refugees, and can lead to feelings of helplessness in Afghan immigrants in other countries.
Upsetting events can provoke a wide range of feelings, among them sadness, shock, anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, or even a sense of numbness. If you are affected by the news, you may notice physiological responses, such as fatigue, tension, and difficulty sleeping. You may also find that your relationships are affected–for example, you may feel disconnected from others, especially those you feel do not share your experiences or views.
If you are experiencing difficulty in the wake of these events, there are steps you can take to cope:
After consuming news or social media, take a moment to pause and reflect. Are you feeling better afterwards? Is the news or social media helping you take productive action? Is it giving you a healthier perspective on the issue? If the answer to these questions is “no,” then it may be helpful to take a break. That could mean decreasing the frequency or amount of time you spend on news and social media, and refining your information sources to outlets that offer straightforward facts. You can also give yourself a break by pivoting your attention to activities that help you feel more positive emotions, such as movies, TV shows, books, exercise, or music.
There is no right or wrong way to feel. Be kind to yourself and remember that your feelings are normal and valid. And if you find yourself distracted or having difficulty performing at your best, show yourself some grace and compassion. Think about how you would respond to a loved one who is having a difficult time right now, and then consider how you can provide that same level of care and concern for yourself.
Strong emotions–especially grief–can often take time to work through, so do your best to take things one day at a time. Remember that these emotions can also lead to difficulty concentrating, feelings of confusion, and changes in productivity. You may not be at your best for a while; it’s important to remember to be kind to yourself if you find you can’t do everything you usually do.
Upsetting events can leave people feeling isolated or disconnected. Remember that you’re not alone in your reactions and reach out to the people in your life who are most likely to offer support and empathy. You may also find comfort in providing support to others, as this can reduce feelings of helplessness and help you find connection with people who share similar reactions.
To deal with overwhelming feelings, craft a coping plan. Think about the people you’ve reached out to, the activities you’ve engaged in, and the helpful things you’ve told yourself when you experienced strong distressing emotions in the past. Build your plan based on those strategies you’ve successfully used in the past. Examples include spending more time outdoors, practicing meditation or yoga, seeking out hopeful or inspiring news, taking a warm bath, calling a friend, or cooking your favorite meal. Consider which of your strategies are most feasible right now, and carve out time in your daily routine to prioritize them.
Your mind and body work together. How we care for our physical health has an enormous impact on our feelings and our capacity to cope with unsettling situations–and stressful events and strong emotions correspondingly affect our bodies. Make sure to attend to your need for nutritious foods, physical activity, relaxing breaks in your day, socializing with loved ones, and a stable sleep schedule. Minimize your use of alcohol, caffeine, and other substances.
If you find that the strategies mentioned here are insufficient to help you cope, consider seeking additional support. A licensed mental health professional who is trained in culturally responsive care can offer you useful resources, fresh perspectives, and hope.
As we collectively process the loss of life and the greater ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, we recognize the substantial toll these events have taken on mental health across the globe. Mental health support will play a crucial role in healing all those impacted. With that in mind, we will continue to advocate for culturally responsive mental health care – for everyone.
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The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.