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Overwhelmed by anxiety and fear for the war in Ukraine: expert advice to manage them.

After two years of suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic we have fallen into the nightmare of war in Ukraine, with bombs falling and slaughtering innocent people in the heart of Europe, a few hundred kilometers from our borders.

A whirlwind of negative emotions exacerbated by the fear of an enlargement of the conflict to NATO countries and therefore also to Europe, by the threat of a nuclear disaster and even the third world war fought with atomic bombs. No wonder we are stressed, stressed, deeply sad and worried about a geopolitical situation well beyond our control. Psychologists and psychiatrists explain that the “burnout” risk is real, due to the emotional fatigue accumulated in two years of tension and deprivation that makes us almost helpless in the face of the new, dramatic emergency. At this moment it is absolutely normal to feel overwhelmed, fragile and confused, but we are not totally helpless in the flow of events, which we can face and manage more effectively by following a few simple tips.

"It's very natural to be distressed by what we're seeing, you wouldn't be human if you weren't," Dr. Alex Bushill, who works at the mental health charity Mind, told the BBC. “We arrive at the appointment with the war in this situation of psychological fatigue that makes it difficult to take on this other emergency. We flee with denial mechanisms or we are prey to fear.

But as mentioned, we are not helpless in the face of the river of negative news. First of all, we should avoid being overwhelmed by them, for example through the so-called "doomscrolling" or "doomsurfing", ie the act of spending a lot of time in front of the TV, a computer screen or a smartphone enmeshed by negative news. Of course, staying informed is important, but it must be done wisely, as explained by clinical psychologist Emma Hepburn. The doctor indicates that continually accumulating information to try to clarify often creates even more confusion and discomfort. For this reason it is advisable to watch the news and social networks only at certain (pre-established) times of the day, perhaps before pleasant and relaxing activities such as a lunch break, visiting friends and sport, which help us keep our mind busy on other.

Dr. Bushill also explains that the source from which we get the news is very important, which obviously has to be as reliable as possible. In order not to be overwhelmed, it is better to "focus on the facts" rather than "on alarmist speculations". He is also advised not to "interact with the graphic contents": the photographs and videos that come from the theater of war are often gruesome, raw and painful. It is good to sip the consultation or avoid it altogether if you are already in a state of anxiety, fear and agitation. Dr. Sarah Kendrick, clinical director at the Shout assistance service, says she is particularly concerned about young people who are constantly attached to their smartphones, where they constantly receive notifications of new news related to the war (perhaps after putting the "follow" on certain information services). The psychologist advises to turn off the phone during the night and reiterates the concept of consulting the news in moderation.

It is also important to make donations, to engage in voluntary voluntary actions and welcoming, all gestures that create positive and rewarding feelings, improving the connection with other people and the joy of living in the moment. Of course, the erosion of mental health due to the pandemic has significantly increased the number of people in need of referral to a specialist, due to the spread of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Those who are already experiencing these conditions are particularly exposed to the negative effects of news on the war in Ukraine, therefore it is good to limit the use of certain contents as much as possible and above all it is essential to consult a therapist. It is a necessary step for anyone who feels they are unable to deal with this painful and worry-filled situation.

With our project, through a path made up of training and gaming activities, we hope to be able to help people in difficulty and specialists to deal with emotions, passing from management to resilience.

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