Managing Anxiety Around Major Global Events

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Posted 121 days ago
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Managing Anxiety Around Major Global Events

Written by Dr Hannah Farnsworth

Major global events can impact us as individuals, and events during the last few years have caused enormous change and huge strain for many. 

It is important to acknowledge the impact that local and global events may have had on you, your friends, or a family member. Stress, anxiety and low mood may all have been triggered or worsened by these events, but there are steps you can take to look after your mental health.

What Could be Causing Anxiety?

Even if an event doesn’t directly impact your daily life, news coverage can stir feelings of apprehension or worry. A good example of this is the war in Ukraine – distressing news channel reports and videos circulating on social media caused upset, concern and anger in many of us. 

It is easy to forget just how many major world events we have witnessed in the last few years, and these experiences may be impacting the way we feel today. 

Global Events

One of the biggest occurrences for many of us was the COVID-19 pandemic. You may have lost a loved one or been severely affected by illness, lockdowns, job losses, financial concerns, interruption to education or loneliness. 

Other global events or issues that may have caused significant anxiety include: 

  • The war in Ukraine and the Israel Gaza war
  • Climate change and extreme weather events
  • Global economic uncertainty – banking crises, poor job security, unstable personal finances
  • Political conflicts – wars, political unrest and humanitarian crises
  • Cybersecurity threats – cyberattacks, data breeches, privacy concerns and money scams
  • Refugee crises
  • Terrorist attacks

Events in Ireland

Closer to home, various events in Ireland may be causing concern such as:

  • Brexit – the impact the UK’s exit from the EU may have on the Ireland
  • Housing crisis – rising property prices, lack of affordable housing and homelessness issues
  • Healthcare pressures – difficulty accessing medical care, especially following the pandemic
  • Transgenerational trauma – being exposed to the impact an event had on your parents or grandparents, such as the economic recession or historical institutional abuse

How to Reduce Anxiety

You may wonder why you feel anxious if you are not directly affected by the source of stress. Even if you are not caught in conflict, trying to flee a country or facing a personal crisis, it is normal to feel upset and even distressed by news reports and released footage. 

Anxiety is a common experience. Regardless of the cause of your anxiety, the following may help you feel less anxious:

  • Try to eat healthily, avoiding fatty or sugary meals and snacks
  • Exercise or take part in physical activity – even a brisk walk can help
  • Get outside – research shows that being outdoors helps to reduce anxiety
  • Prioritise sleep – stick to a reasonable bedtime and avoid using screens before bed to promote good quality rest
  • Talk to friends or family – sharing your concerns with others can help you make sense of your worries
  • Write in a journal – getting your feelings out onto paper can help you process them
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation – to avoid becoming overwhelmed, give yourself space to reflect on how you feel

Technology and Anxiety

Your phone is a great way to keep up with what is happening globally, but it could also be causing additional anxiety. Doomscrolling (spending an excessive amount of time being exposed to upsetting news) is known to make people feel more anxious. 

If you are in the habit of checking the news throughout the day, you will need to put some boundaries in place. This might include limiting access to the news to just once or twice a day, and only for 20 minutes at a time. Make sure you only read reports form reliable sources, as fake news is abundant and could worsen your anxiety unnecessarily. 

Once you have caught up, find something relaxing or distracting to do such as going for a walk, watching TV, or calling a friend for a chat. 

Having access to the news 24/7 may affect your sleep. If you are worried about global events, it is easy to doomscroll at night which will only increase your anxiety. To reduce the temptation to scroll, turn your phone off or leave it downstairs when you go to bed. You may not be able to control what is happening in the world, but you can control how often you read about it.

Final Thoughts 

Global events and threats are creating anxiety worldwide. If you are facing your own difficulties, reach out for help. A friend, parent, teacher, colleague or counsellor may be able to help you manage the source of your stress, as well as address the way it makes you feel.

By taking steps to reduce anxiety, including limiting your exposure to news channels, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed. 

How can I help my child manage anxiety around global events?

Major global events can be scary for children and teenagers. Shielding them from the news can be unhelpful, so it is important to let them learn the facts in an age-appropriate way. The following tips may help you support and manage your child as they learn about worrying events worldwide.

1 Communicate Openly

Try to create an environment where children feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns. Pay attention to their feelings and listen without judging. By letting them know it’s ok to feel the way they do, you validate their emotions.

Try to speak calmly and be mindful of the words you use. A gentle explanation will be less worrying.

2 Provide Age-Appropriate Information

Offer information that is age-appropriate and easy to understand. Make sure you have checked the source of information yourself to ensure you are providing facts. 

Depending on your child’s age, try to monitor or control access to the news and media, and limit graphic or distressing content.

If you have young children but want to hear the news, listen in private. If your children want to be updated, you can paraphrase any developments in an age-appropriate manner later.

3 Establish Routines at Home

Children may feel less anxious or uncertain if they know what to expect each day. Maintain regular routines that provide a sense of normality and predictability. This can help whether a child is worried about a global event, or one that might directly affect them.

4 Encourage Positive Coping Strategies

Introduce relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or mindfulness practices. Encourage your child to take part in activities that promote wellbeing such as physical exercise, creative expression, or spending time in nature.

5 Model Positive Behaviour

Children often mirror the behaviour of adults around them. Try to demonstrate calmness, resilience and healthy coping mechanisms to provide a positive role model. 

Teach your children problem solving skills, and empower them to take positive actions in their own lives. This might include asking for help when needed, or trying new mindfulness techniques.

6 Stay Informed

Educating yourself about global events can help you address questions your child might have. If you are unsure about a question, use a trustworthy source to find the answer. 

If something is directly affecting your family, such as financial worries or job loss, talk to your child about the steps adults are taking to look after the family. This may help to reduce your child’s worries.

7 Celebrate Positivity

Try to share a balance of news stories to include good news. Even in stressful and upsetting global events, there are often stories of resilience, kindness, and positive actions to be found.

8 Foster a Supportive Community

Connect with friends, other parents at your child’s school, or your colleagues. Having a support network means you can look out for each other, provide comfort and understanding, and work together to find ways to help your children as they navigate anxiety.

9 Look After Yourself

If you find it difficult to talk about upsetting topics or are struggling with your own anxiety, it is natural for your children to pick up on this. 

It is ok to let your children know if you don’t feel up to discussing events at times. If this is the case, you can offer to answer their questions later, or guide them to speak to a teacher who may be able to answer their questions.

Try not to feel guilty if there are times when you don’t feel able to discuss difficult topics. We have all been affected by the pandemic and many are struggling to see the humanitarian crises occurring worldwide. Remember to take care of your own mental health, and seek support if needed, to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

What can I do to help those affected by major global events?

It is natural to want to help those who are facing extreme hardship. 

Helping others is known to improve your own mental wellbeing, so doing something proactive, helpful or practical may also help you feel better emotionally. 

Depending on the cause you wish to support, it is usually best to help via a registered charity or aid agency, so that you can be sure that your efforts will not be in vain. Suitable ways to help and feel useful might include:

  • Making a monetary donation to a registered charity, who will use your donation where it is most needed
  • Donating unwanted items in good condition to local charity shops
  • Encouraging your school, college or workplace to set up fundraising events to raise money for charities, for example sponsored events, cake sales, or non-uniform days
  • Educating yourself on issues such as climate change so that you can make personal changes that will help
  • Learning about topics such as cybersecurity so you can protect yourself and help others increase their security

Even if you feel you can’t do anything to help a global or local problem, you can put your energy into trying to make a difference to other people. This might include donating to a food bank near you, volunteering for a charity, or asking any elderly neighbours if you can help them in any way.

Help and Assistance

If you are concerned about yourself, friends or family you should contact your GP or Out of Hours Service immediately.

You can also get immediate support and information 24/7 by

FreeTexting HELP to 50015

Texting 50015 is free of charge from any network and you can text this number even if you have no credit. This service is fully confidential and YSPI has no information on mobile numbers that use the FreeText service. 

For additional information on:

  • Emergency Contacts
  • National Helplines
  • Local Support Groups
  • Directions to your nearest GP or out of hours clinic
  • Directions to your nearest safe place or refuge

Visit www.ineedhelp.ie

Always call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured, and their life is at risk. 

Gardaí / Ambulance / Fire call 999 or 112

Posted by Dr Hannah Farnsworth

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