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How to Cope with Current Fears

anxiety fears ukraine Mar 17, 2022

There are pervasive fears layering on pandemic overload, and it's important to remember there are things we can do, to navigate this troubling time, not only for ourselves but our loves ones too.

First I want to tell you a story:

In the mid 1800’s an elderly Rabbi lived in Ukraine. Though it was never easy, he was able to raise his family and could devote his time to help his community. Life had its own rhythm. When looking out the windows of his home at the end of the day, little did he know that years away,  his own son would almost be killed in a pogrom, and would have to escape in a casket. This was the best way to get safely across the border. That young man was my grandfather and he eventually make his way to Canada, where I was born. He married there, set up a clothing shop, which my mother worked in, and I believe in some ways that he never really fully got over the trauma.


So you can see how what is going on in Ukraine strikes a chord  with me, and so many of us who are feeling a new layer of anxiety in an already stressed out world and trying to make sense of it, and to find ways to cope. 


It brings up fears  in us of how would we cope if from one day to the next our lives changed drastically and we were in severe danger. My daughter who works in digital marketing, has a colleague in Ukraine, who had to flee her home.  Seeing buildings with the word "children" written boldly outside being bombed is unfathomable. Maria Shriver writes in her column writes, “Women my age and older walk for miles in the freezing cold, holding their purses, falling and getting back up, and charging ahead as they fight back tears. Watching children hold their parents’ hands with looks of confusion, fear, and sadness on their faces.”

It's hard to be a human and not feel that. Today I want to give you some things that can help, both you and your children.


Feeling of fear and anxiety are normal. It normal to experience these emotions, as well as anger, hopelessness, and numbness. After 2 years of the pandemic, people are overwhelmed and overloaded. What I want to remind you today, is that even if feelings of helplessness arise, we are not helpless.  Here are some things we can do:


Limit news: we know that in the news world, if it bleeds, it leads, so the nature of news is to be shocking in order to grab your attention. Make sure, and advise your teens, to be discerning about the reporting you listen to – choose credible sources, and ask yourself, how much news is good for my mental health?


Regulate Your Nervous System: Like on an airplane in times of danger, put the oxygen mask on first, before you attend to others. Keep your mood and anxiety at healthy levels through intentional movement (move your body to distress your mind), breath work, sleep (don’t stay up all night distracting with Netflix or watching the news), eat foods that energize you, journal, meditate, have a calming playlist you listen to. Emotions are contagious. Take care of yourself so you can be present for your loved ones.


Take an Action:  To relieve generalized anxiety and a feeling of helplessness, take action. Abigail Gerwitz, featured in Greater Good Science Center, is the author of  “When the World Feels Like a Scary Place: Essential conversations for Anxious Parents and Worried Kids.” She advises saying:

“I know we all feel a bit overwhelmed….. but, I wonder if there’s something we  can do for ourselves – to help us all calm down together, and it could also be something to help people, who come here, or who are struggling there. “ 

So apart from learning to calm ourselves, it’s very helpful to take back some sense of agency by giving to a non-profit that supports refugees either where you live, or to a reputable international group to help families in Ukraine. You and they become, in the words of Mr. Rogers, a “helper.”

Also remind them of the heroism of President Zelensky and the people who are choosing to protect their country, their home and their family…just as you are there to hear what they are feeling, to validate that AND to protect them.


So try these 3 things:

  • Limit obsessive scrolling and news watching – for your own mental health
  • Regulate Your Own Nervous System
  • Take an Action to Help

Notice the difference small actions can make.


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