• Dr. Matt Zakreski

How to Cope with an International Crisis (a response to Ukraine)

Like a lot of you, I've been following the situation in Russia and #Ukraine pretty closely with increasing dismay. I know that a lot of us are very sensitive to these global events and have kids who are equally (if not more!) sensitive. So I wanted to write a quick guide to helping each over navigate major international crises.

As always, use as many of these as you can, and leave what doesn't work for you.

1. Validate emotions - There might be a part of you that wonders why your people (family, friends, kids, students, etc.) is SO worried about the situation. But we can never know the whole story, nor should we require people to explain why they feel. So if someone shares a concern, we validate and empathize. Listen first, then ask how you can support them.

2. Focus on what you can do - big situations can feel overwhelming (well, because they are), and that sense can paralyze us. In those moments, it is better to focus on the ways that we can help that are within our power. There are lots of good organizations helping the people of Ukraine where you can direct your time and energy:

3. Limit the news - I know, I know. The 24/7 smartphone/social media news cycle makes this goal basically impossible. But we should still try. The thing with news is that it is never-ending, and thus we run out of emotional energy to manage it. But major events will find their way to you, regardless. So trust that part of the process, and intentionally limit yourself to 10-15 minutes 2x/day on scrolling through BBC news. No #doomscrolling!

4. Pie-chart - Crises can feel like they take up all our lives and emotional energy, but that thinking is flawed. We have many other things that we can and must do during our day: work, friends, family, exercise, eating, sleeping, etc. It can helpful to contextualize our concerns about a major event by drawing a pie chart and make slices for everything you do, so you can compartmentalize where your concern fits in context of everything else. You'll find that you have many other things to focus on and draw your energy elsewhere.

5. Fill your cup. If things get worse (and they may), you will need all your #spoons. So please be intentional in continuing to do your ADLs (eating, drinking water, moving your body, sleeping). Routine matters even more when things are hard. Stick to your things as best as you can!

I often say to my clients that I cannot take their burdens away from them (even though I want to), but I can help them carry them. When things get dark/scary, our tendency as people can be to withdraw and shut down - push back against that! We will survive this together and now is the time to intentionally connect with community.

You're not in this alone. We will get through this together.

#drmatt #emotionalwellbeing #sensitivity #gifted #neurodivergent #intensity

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