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5 Tips for Dealing With Uncertainty in Times of War

March 21, 2022

When conflict makes the headlines, it can make you feel fearful, sad, angry and anxious no matter where you are living. Here are a few tips on how to cope when you feel overwhelmed.

This article is adapted from a blog post published by Voices of Youth, a global communication platform created by UNICEF where kids can communicate and collaborate around issues that matter to them.

1. Limit the amount of news you consume

When a conflict or war breaks out, many of us want to learn more by scrolling through social media and reading endless articles. But a constant stream of upsetting images and headlines can make it feel like the crisis is all around us, leaving us feeling helpless and scared.

While it is good to stay informed, try to be mindful of how you’re consuming news. Identify key times during the day to check in on what is happening rather than constantly being online. As much as you are able, make some time to do things that help you relax and recuperate. Try not to check in on news/social media before going to sleep and try to take a full hour off before going to bed.

Also: try not to reach for your phone as soon as you wake up. Allow your mind to wake up slowly before checking in on news updates.

2. Learn to recognize misinformation

During times of crisis, inaccurate information and ‘fake news’ can spread quickly. Misinformation works as a powerful machine – produced and distributed online by a wide range of sources, including people deliberately starting false rumors, ‘bots’ (social media accounts programmed by computers) automatically posting misinformation, and ordinary people who unwittingly share fake news with their followers.

When we share things online without checking to see if the information is verified and factual, we help keep misinformation circulating. It is important that you learn how to spot misinformation — false information that’s shared by people who don’t realize it is false and don’t mean any harm; and disinformation — deliberately engineered and disseminated false information with malicious intent or a rumour.

Before you share online, ask yourself the following questions: Who made this piece of content? What is the source? Where did it come from? Why is it being shared? When was it published?

Learn more about how to fight misinformation here.

3. Spread compassion, not stigma

Conflict often brings with it prejudice and discrimination, whether against a people or country. Try to avoid labels like “bad people” or “evil” and instead use it as an opportunity to encourage compassion.

Even if a conflict is happening in a distant country, it can fuel discrimination on your doorstep. If you witness a friend or family member saying racist or discriminatory things, you should talk to them, if you feel safe to do so. Approach them privately first – in person or via direct message — as they are more likely to be receptive if they don’t feel publicly embarrassed.

Point out to them that what they are saying is racist or discriminatory and remind them that everyone has the right to dignity and that in many countries it is against the law to discriminate against a person because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, migration status, religion, gender, nationality or sexual orientation. Encourage them to learn more about the historical context of racial prejudice and discrimination and share resources that you have found helpful.

Learn more about dealing with racism and discrimination here.

4. Take care of your mental health

Understanding how you feel is important. Don’t ignore it.

As news of the conflict continues, you should check in with yourself. Do you feel worried, anxious, angry or sad about what’s happening? Are you seeing any changes in your behavior like irritability, tearfulness or having headaches, stomachaches, nightmares or difficulty sleeping?

To support your mental health, you can...

  • do breathing exercises — take five deep breaths — 5 seconds breathing in, 5 seconds breathing out — breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth
  • put it on paper — writing your feelings down can help you to describe them (“Right now I feel ...”)
  • be kind to yourself — putting pressure on yourself to always ‘be happy’ or ‘stay productive’ can sometimes make you feel worse; instead, if you notice you are experiencing difficult emotions, try telling yourself, 'I feel worried and scared, but that does not mean I am not coping' or 'It’s been a tough time, it’s okay to be upset' 
  • talk to someone you trust — it isn’t always easy to manage anger, worry, or sadness by yourself; connect with a friend, parent, teacher or other trusted adult about how you are feeling and they may be able to help you, you might feel better
  • move your body — physical activity is important to help process feelings; try to get outside for a walk, dance to your favorite song, play a sports game with friends or engage in another form of physical activity, which can help with strong emotions and may also help you sleep better

More tips for dealing with your mental health here

5. Find out how you can help

See if any local organizations in your area are doing fundraising, advocacy or solidarity actions that you can get involved with. Do some research online first and always remember to tell a guardian/parent where you are going (if you are under 18 and attending in person) or try to go with a friend (if you are over 18).

Voices of Youth is a global community that aims to help young people become global citizens, by providing a space in which to effectively communicate and collaborate on important issues and make a positive difference in their countries and communities. Though it is an initiative that was built by and maintained by UNICEF, VOY is not intended to be a platform for UNICEF’s agenda, but rather a place for youth to express their opinions on development issues that matter to them.

For more advice on taking care of yourself in stressful times, visit voicesofyouth.org.

Top photo: Louise, 16, a STEM student and activist for gender equality in Salvador, Brazil. © UNICEF/UN0470630/Gelman/VII Photo