Another bleak and sad day where we become witness to how Russian troops attack cities, destroy buildings and infrastructure, and worst of all, wound and kill other human beings (1) – because Putin and his regime have been able to dehumanize the people of Ukraine by categorizing them as enemies, threats, targets, as fascists and Nazis. By dehumanizing people, it is much easier to justify and enforce atrocities if we perceive people as not full-fledged human beings.
It is also a bleak, sad day because the illegal invasion and war against the people of Ukraine puts us common citizens into a place where we are almost helpless, without having control over what is happening next on the global, political scale. An experience that our Western world with its focus on living a self-determined life, rarely exposes us to.
This experience of being powerless and without control, lets us feel a kaleidoscope of intense emotions: Worry, fear, anxiety, anger, and panic.
These emotions make us jittery, tense, overwhelmed or hypervigilant, we have trouble focusing on the task at hand, we don’t sleep well, lose our appetite, or eat more than we should. We get easily irritated by others these days, too and it is not easy to stay calm, compassionate, and mindful to other people’s requests and needs. And to our own needs.
A lot of times, we don’t acknowledge emotions that make us uncomfortable, that stress us and our relationships. We shove them away, we ignore, and we suppress them. But doing so, we don’t do anyone a favor.
Not only is suppressing emotions of worry, fear, anxiety, anger and panic an emotion regulation strategy that backfires at our health and well-being and impairs our relationships, but it is also a strategy that denies us the experience of being human.
Feeling worried, anxious, angry, furious, or panicked is totally appropriate in this situation. These emotions show us that the war in the Ukraine is not right, that wounding and killing people is an inexcusable crime. By accepting these emotions, we show that we are human because we feel with the children, babies, women, and men that are caught in this senseless war.
And third, by acknowledging emotions of worry, anxiety, anger, and panic, you rob Putin and his regime of the power they have over you. Because shoving away, ignoring or suppressing emotions like anxiety, anger, and panic, you keep staying in the zone of feeling powerless, helpless, maybe even isolated, because your body and mind doesn’t get a chance to switch from survival mode to a mindful response mode. Don’t give Putin that power over you!
Locating, acknowledging, and accepting these emotions is a starting point to respond, to regain control and act with compassion, appropriately and calmy. Because these emotions show us what to address.
The “only” thing we must do, is to find a constructive way to address worry, anxiety, anger, and panic, so that they help us to master this situation and not cripple us, dehumanize us because we keep reacting instead of responding mindfully appropriately and calmly. The first step is to learn how you can move from survival to a mindful response mode. There are different pathways, but the most effective strategies are ones, that involve body, emotion, and thoughts. Centering, as done in Aikido, is one technique that helps you find your balance again. And a third one is taking on a discovery and proactive mindset because in all this bleakness lies an opportunity for us to learn of how we can improve the situation in Ukraine and in the world in order to make this world a better, safer place for all of us.
Use your anxiety to stay human!
(1) New York Times, March 5, 2022: https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/03/04/world/russia-ukraine#catch-up-on-the-latest-ukraine-news