• Anxiety is a powerful emotion that can easily hijack our days, especially in times of global crisis

  • Coach Eleanor Marker offers four strategies to look after yourself in challenging times

  • If you need to talk to someone, find a therapist or coach on Welldoing

It can be difficult to maintain our hold on our anxiety levels at the best of times, but when we see tension on the global stage, we can find ourselves overwhelmed by feelings of powerlessness, fear and anxiety. Wider global conflict can lead to inner turmoil all too easily. 

In this article I will discuss four ways that you can navigate your way through times of global conflict.

Mindful exposure

It is important to be aware of the world around us but sometimes in times of conflict or tension, we can immerse ourselves too completely in the 24/7 media news wash. For example, during the start of Covid 19 many people engaged more heavily with radio and TV news bulletins in order to increase their levels of information. But quickly this absorption in media reporting of challenges in the world can feel less like information gathering and more like information drowning. Especially when we are being confronted by multiple perspectives, different opinions and sometimes even a sense of a loss of reality, that we cannot tell fact from fiction. It is important to understand when enough is enough and you need to step away from news absorption. 

Take time after you have absorbed challenging global news information to take your emotional pulse. How are you feeling? How are you responding to that news? It is completely understandable to have emotional empathy and be engaged with the content you have heard. But if you have find that hours afterwards you are still in a state of high emotional arousal and that you’re having difficulty regulating your emotions such that it is impacting on your emotions and your overall mood, it may be time to consider reducing your exposure to news media.

Gain perspective

News channels take a story and run with it. After all, they are consumer led businesses and give prominence to the story that is uppermost in people’s minds. This can lead to a tunnelling effect where you can find that the single focus of the news media triggers in you a single focus on a news issue. And of course, there are times when a single global issue is the most dominant issue for all of us. But it is vital as well to keep a sense of global perspective. Just as immersing yourself in 24/7 news bulletins may be detrimental to your mood, similarly the echo chambers of social media when it comes to certain news stories can remove our sense of perspective and understanding rather than heighten them. 

The wider our standpoint and the broader our perspective, the more able we are to have a full understanding of the nature of the global event. This does not necessarily mean immersing yourself in multiple viewpoints, but it does mean allowing yourself time to seek alternative perspectives and alternative news stories. 

Try to remain open to alternative perspectives and don’t forget that social media often encourages extreme viewpoints as part of its algorithm for engagement. There is always a middle ground and it can be helpful for one’s sense of perspective to find time to listen to moderate voices. 

Balancing the positives

Just as it is important to gain multiple perspectives including some that have a more positive slant, it can also be helpful if you find yourself overwhelmed by the inherent negativity of a challenging global event, to try to maximise positive emotions through the day. This does not mean that you deny the reality of the global event or that you in some way seek out pleasure at the expense of other people’s misery, but it does mean that in your own small way you can stay informed and aware and yet maintain your ability to regulate your more challenging emotions. 

We can do this by seeking out positive affirmations. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by difficult emotions such as fear, guilt, anguish on a global level, it can help look for small positive moments within your most immediate world. Whether that is connecting with nature through a short walk, appreciating some of the sounds, smells and sights in your own home or taking the time to connect with a loved one. These things do not deny the global reality but they do allow you to remain afloat during times when new stories are overwhelmingly negative.

Proactivity vs passivity

Feelings of powerlessness are all too prevalent during times of global conflict. We can find ourselves desperate to help but feel that we are not in a position to do anything meaningful or immediate to actively ease the situation. This can lead to feelings of powerlessness, lack of autonomy and even a sense of personal vulnerability which can all create feelings of increased anxiety.

What can we do to challenge these personal emotions at times when we are already experiencing difficult emotions from global repercussions?

One thing we can do is channel our feelings of wanting to help and needing to engage with the subject. For example, during Covid 19 many of us engaged with small acts of kindness in our own neighbourhoods or in our online communities. These small but meaningful acts of solidarity, compassion and sometimes resistance can all help to make us feel that we are trying to do all we can in our own ways and in our own circumstances to help towards a greater good.

If you find yourself responding to a global event or crisis with feelings of powerlessness or frustration, ask yourself what is it I can do. What small actionable step can I take today that will be a move towards helping the situation? Even if it is a small mindset shift, a tiny behaviour change or a message of support or solidarity. By taking small actionable steps you can guard against feelings of passivity or powerlessness, which in turn can help to diffuse any sense of overall anxiety.

In these four ways, we can navigate times of global crisis whilst maintaining our own equilibrium. Honouring our sense of anger and channelling it into action, balancing negative exposure with positive engagement, recognising the perils of social media echo chambers and being mindful of our news absorption can all help us during times of global crisis. In this way, we can learn to engage actively and compassionately with the event whilst avoiding overwhelming feelings of anxiety.

Eleanor Marker is a verified Welldoing coach in Carmarthenshire and online

Further reading

Is reading the news bad for my mental health?

Helping children feel secure in an age of insecurity

Why can't I stop overthinking?

What's the difference between fear and anxiety?

The psychology of internet trolls: Why do people develop different personalities online?