In addition to physical harm, wars can cause mental health issues, including stress, depression and anxiety. Anyone exposed to war and conflict can face these kinds of challenges—adults, children, fighters, civilians, people who have left and people who have stayed behind. The important thing to know is that there are things you can do to reduce the effects of these feelings and improve the quality of your life, even during the most difficult times.
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Stress means feeling troubled or threatened by aspects of life. Everybody feels different levels of stress at some point in life.
Stress can be caused by major threats, such as:
- Violence in your community
- Problems providing for your family
- Being displaced from your home
- Physical abuse or injury
- Family violence
- Closing of schools and other services and social supports
Or it can be caused by smaller things, such as:
- Arguments with family
- Uncertainty about the future
- Other people’s stress
Depression is very common and can happen to anyone. The good news is that depression can be managed and overcome, even in the most severe cases. Signs of depression include:
- Changes is mood, such as feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, irritability or guilt
- Changes in thinking, such as difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions, or thoughts of death, self-harm or suicide
- Changes in behavior, such as restlessness, or talking and moving more slowly than usual
- Physical changes, such as trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
It’s normal to feel anxious from time to time, but when anxiety disrupts your daily life, this may indicate that you should seek help to address it. Signs of anxiety include:
- Increased heartrate
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling faint, dizzy or short of breath
- Dry mouth or excessive sweating
- Chills with a fever
- Persistent numbness or tingling
- Feelings of fear interfering with your functioning, daily, work or family life
Even if you cannot get help from a mental health or medical professional right away, there are things you can do to cope positively with feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.
The resources below offer information and practical skills to help you or others to cope with stress, depression and anxiety. Even in the face of tremendous adversity, it’s possible to find meaning, purpose and vitality in life.
Listen to these exercises to practice simple skills to help you cope in times of stress.
Building awareness: One thing that helps people manage stress better is learning how to not get distracted by thoughts or feelings. Click here to hear how you can do that. (7 minutes)
Grounding Exercise 1: Grounding is a technique that helps to keep us in the present moment. Click here to practice how to bring yourself back to the present moment when you are feeling stress. (5 minutes)
Grounding Exercise 2: Click here for a short, guided exercise on how to slow down for a moment and notice your thoughts and feelings. (2 minutes)
Grounding Exercise 3: Click here for a longer, guided exercise on how to ground yourself in the present moment. (9 minutes)
Notice and Name: Click here to learn how to use noticing and naming to unhook from difficult thoughts and feelings. (6 minutes)
Unhooking from Unkind Thoughts: Click here to learn how to unhook from unkind thoughts about yourself. (4 minutes)
Making Room: Click here to learn how to “make room” for difficult thoughts instead of struggling with them. (5 minutes)
Being Kind to Yourself: Click here to learn how to be kind to yourself, especially when there is nobody there to be a kind friend to you. (8 minutes)
Read these resources to learn more about stress and how to cope with it.
Doing What Matters in Times of Stress
This guidebook has five sections, each containing a new idea and technique. These are easy to learn and can be used for just a few minutes each day to help you reduce stress.
Download guidebook >
If you find that doing the exercises in this book is not enough for you to cope with stress, then please seek help from relevant mental health or social services where available, or from trusted people in your community.
This booklet provides basic information about depression, including signs, symptoms, causes and recommended actions and supports.
Download booklet >
This booklet provides basic information about anxiety, including signs, symptoms, causes and recommended actions and supports.
Download booklet >