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March 15, 2022

Ukraine Invasion: Prioritizing Your Mental Health Amidst War

4 minute read

Workplace Wellbeing

Written by

Shannon Maynard, Certified Professional Coach avatar

Shannon Maynard, Certified Professional Coach

8-minute read

As the war in Ukraine continues to escalate, so many of us are hurting right now. It’s normal to be feeling heavy, conflicting emotions or even numbness and shock. 

Our recent webinar was designed to help you feel less alone, more supported, and better equipped to manage your mental and emotional health. Begin with the mindfulness exercise below, and then keep reading for the key takeaways. 

Mental health impact

It’s okay to not be okay. Your feelings are a normal human reaction, and there’s no right way to feel or respond. 

“The first [step] is not to judge how you’re feeling, but to acknowledge it and accept it, because it’s really a normal human reaction,” says Millard D. Brown, MD, SVP of Medical Affairs at Spring Health. “There’s so many different ways to feel that your first reactions are definitely normal.”

You may be experiencing trauma or extreme stress from the lack of control, ongoing unknowns, perceived threats, or not knowing where to get correct information. 

Prioritizing your mental health is crucial, as this conflict may be impacting you more than you realize—both emotionally and physically. Here’s how you may be feeling the impact:

Emotional:

  • Overwhelming empathy and sadness
  • Anxiety, worry and fear, or numbness
  • Anger and frustration 

Physical:

  • Decreased ability to concentrate
  • Increased tension or fatigue
  • Headaches or illness

It’s important to check in with yourself regularly. Your answers to these questions will change over time, as you experience the ongoing impact of this war: 

  • How are you feeling? What do you need to feel even a little better?
  • How is your sleep, diet, and energy level?
  • Have you been over using or over relying on substances to reduce stress or decrease your emotional intensity?

Taking care of yourself

Self care looks different for everyone, and even when you know what you need, executing it can be a challenge. 

“Headline hysteria is a real thing,” says Spring Health Provider BJ Constantine, LMHC, NCC.

“So, while being an informed citizen may be important, and you likely want to know what’s happening in the world, and specifically with this war in Ukraine, what’s your limit for what’s healthy?”

These coping strategies can help you manage your mental and emotional health:

  • Acknowledge your feelings without judgment
  • Talk about how you’re feeling with others
  • Give yourself permission to continue on with your daily life, allowing joy and pleasurable activities
  • Be careful about how you receive news—avoid overexposure or mindless consumption
  • Look into tangible ways to support the war victims

These steps can help you build resilience:

  • Exert control where you can
  • Focus on things that feel meaningful
  • Engage regularly in mindfulness exercises
  • Get outside
  • Maintain healthy connections
  • Navigate healthy boundaries—know what drains your personal resources and what rejuvenates you
  • Plan for how you’ll respond to known triggers 

How you can support others

Those with friends and family who are directly impacted, veterans, and those with a history of trauma may be feeling particularly vulnerable right now. 

It can be tough to watch someone struggle and not know how to help. Keep in mind that you don’t have to know the ‘right’ thing to say. An acknowledgment of support and your presence is the most powerful tool you can provide. 

Uliana Bilash is Manager of HRBP at Spring Health, and her family is from Ukraine. She says, “I think it’s great if a manager or team member asks, ‘What can I do to help you? You don’t have to respond now, but think about it and let me know.” This way, it’s not on the spot pressure in case you can’t really think of what [you need] in that moment.”

Here are a few more ways you can offer support:

  • Thoughtfully check in. Opening a simple conversation provides an opportunity to connect and share.
  • Avoid giving advice or assuming. Remain open and let them lead the way. 
  • If you notice a change in behavior or signs of distress, use “I” statements to communicate your observations and offer to help find professional help. 

Many of your employees are likely struggling in a variety of ways. Uliana says, ““Oftentimes managers avoid sensitive subjects like this, and I encourage managers to address the elephant in the room. 

“This is not just something that affects Ukrainians—a lot of people are feeling fear and anxiety around this. So, make sure your team knows that it’s okay to not be okay, that you’re there for them.”

These steps can help you create a more supportive work environment:

  • Directly acknowledge what’s going on 
  • Provide ongoing opportunities for conversation and connection
  • Create an open pathway for those who need it to communicate their needs. 
  • Create and communicate resources
  • Check in with your coworkers and teams regularly 

Watch the webinar on demand for the full conversation and additional resources to support you and your teams.

Watch the Webinar

About the Author

Shannon Maynard, Certified Professional Coach avatar

Shannon Maynard, Certified Professional Coach

Shannon is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Spring Health, and has 15 years of marketing experience. She is also a Certified Professional Coach, Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner, introvert, and HSP. She loves writing about introversion and mental health, and is a regular contributor for Introvert, Dear and Highly Sensitive Refuge.