Pandemics, wars in Ukraine, economic conditions … how to manage your anxiety in the face of current events?

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Antoine Perissolo, University of Paris-East Créteil Valde Marne (UPEC)

Ukrainian news added uncertainty to everyday life already complicated by a two-year pandemic and health crisis. Antoine Perissolo, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Paris Est Créteil and Head of Departmental Psychiatry at CHU Henri Mondor, explains how to deal with the anxieties that can arise from this difficult situation. ..


Conversation: What is the impact of the current situation on people’s mental health?

Antoine Perissolo: Uncertainty and stress from health, and awareness of potential threats to health and the future, have contributed to increasing the level of general anxiety that remains high today.

Most of us can cope with this type of situation and develop forms of habituation and resilience. However, 10-15% of people are initially more susceptible to stress due to their pre-existing medical condition, and 25-30% of others become weaker as these conditions persist. This leads to anxiety attacks, sleep disorders and malaise.

It’s not necessarily a particularly serious damage, but these conditions can create significant pain that must be considered. And even more so, because of this type of predisposition and stressors, about 1 in 5 people can develop true depression.

Conversation: Are some individuals more worried than others?

Antoine Perissolo: The number of consultations for young people aged 15 to 30 is increasing. This is due to several factors. This is the age group in which we have more psychological weaknesses. In addition to this situation, there are issues related to pandemics. The closure of the university has, in particular, increased the number of people who make it difficult to get the grade right or even stop it. But for an 18-year-old young adult who has everything to build, a year is not as valuable as a 50-year-old. This can lead to interruptions in the trajectory of life and forms of despair.

This may have been exacerbated by the loss of social reference due to confinement, curfew, closure of social venues (theaters, cinemas, sports halls, etc.), distance from loved ones, etc. These complex situations have been added across generations Questions about the future of the world, the state of the planets, the future of the profession … this combination finds itself weakened and no longer clings to it. It means that you have the impression that there is not much. What is worrisome is that I saw the young people who were close to me crack.

The problem is that consultations are currently very difficult to access and psychological and psychiatric suggestions are much lower than needs.

TC: The outbreak of war in Ukraine must have improved things …

PA: It’s still a bit early to measure, but in fact it only makes the situation worse and causes decompensation.

Not all of us have the same concerns. Additional reasons for anxiety can increase the range of people affected by anxiety. People who have been largely unaffected by the news may feel more affected by personal fluctuations.

TC: How to protect yourself?

PA: The most obvious first piece of advice is not to permanently expose yourself to sources of anxiety, such as ongoing news channels and social networks. The risk is certainly the amplification of threat awareness and helplessness.

In the face of the often overwhelming fear, it is important to shape rationality. For example, remember that no matter how dramatic the situation in Ukraine, we ourselves are not exposed to war on our land. It is in danger.

The main source of anxiety is uncertainty, especially about the long-term future. Some people tend to “prepare for the worst” as if it were a way around it. By doing so, they try to predict what will never happen at the expense of serious anxiety, and they can no longer see things in terms of risk and seriousness.

In general, the idea is rather to manage daily and fix yourself in the present moment. It’s not a denial, it’s a small step as you go. As that day comes, we will continue to focus on the current elements in which we can act, keeping in mind that we may have to face more complex issues.

TC: Are there any practices that can help you manage stress better?

PA: Whatever the cause, relaxation, breathing, sports, yoga, walking, meditation, artistic activity, etc., the usual means of combating stress and anxiety will clearly work in this situation as well. .. These approaches, if possible, come into contact with nature to reduce the average level of stress and create positive emotions that promote well-being.

It’s also important to set the rhythm of life that you control, at least in part. Set aside time for breaks and distractions, not just the current events and needs.

Finally, socialization is also effective in managing stress. Exchanging with others and sharing your feelings can be a source of happiness.

Investing in mutual aid, solidarity actions also allows you to fight helplessness. But you need to find the right degree, not everyone has this availability, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you can’t. Just as you shouldn’t feel guilty if you feel more need to take care of yourself. Doing what you need to do to feel good also makes it easier to open the door to others.

The important thing is to communicate your feelings well. Whether positive or negative, we must avoid emotional overflow and excess. Redirects the flow to a more manageable space. Meditation, for example, helps turn helplessness into compassion and altruism.

TC: How to relieve anxiety in children?

PA: Best of all, you shouldn’t hesitate to answer all their questions, and if they so request, you should start a dialogue, regardless of their age. Even among small children: From the age of 4 or 5, they are already aware of many things. Of course, you have to convey it as it is, adapting the language so that it is easy to understand and not anxious.

Providing them an element of peace of mind is especially important: explain to them that we are not directly involved in France, that wars are taking place in other countries … children are always To their parents who are afraid of what can happen to them or what can happen to them.

And for adults, it’s important to provide distracting moments, participate in activities together, and be especially relaxed at bedtime.

Antoine Pelissolo, Professor of Psychiatry, Inserm, University of Paris-East Créteil Valde Marne (UPEC)

This article has been republished from Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Please read the original article.

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