Self-Care with Broad Coverage of the Israel-Hamas War and Other Worldwide Violence
In addition to other wars and political unrest taking place globally, the situation in Israel and Gaza continues to evolve and dominate news coverage. Despite being far from the site of conflict, we are exposed to images, stories and sounds through television, radio, printed stories and social media. And this is taking a toll on many, including children. The American Psychological Association recently released a statement warning that consuming violent and traumatic news negatively affects our mental health.
Fear, anxiety and traumatic stress have long term effects on health and well-being. These impacts are being felt by people all around the world, not just by those who have families and friends in regions being impacted, but by others as well.
It is important to understand how to stay both informed and connected while being mindful of protecting our mental well-being, and of that of our children. Our community has shared together in many traumatic events including mass casualty incidents, wildfires, mass shootings, the COVID-19 pandemic, among other shared high stress events. Even though events now occurring may not be happening directly in our community, the exposure through television, radio, print news, social media, even conversations in lines at the store or in restaurants intrude our minds in a way that prevent concentration, keep us from sleeping, impact our nervous systems and cause overall feelings of distress and anxiousness.
Here are some things you can do right now for your mental health and for that of your family:
Limit media intake. Find one or two trusted media outlets and check for updates once or twice a day only, for a limited time. Especially for children, it is important to be sure not to leave the television on all day playing news updates.
Talk to your children. Explain to kids in an age-appropriate way, what is happening. To ensure trust and children feeling comfortable talking, consider asking what they have heard, what they know, and how they feel.
- Give children space to ask questions. Listen and really hear.
- Limit media exposure
- Reassure children that they are safe
- Be transparent and honest
- Talk about bad actions, not bad people
- Highlight the helpers
- Name your feelings
- Be mindful of your own reactions and feelings
- Model and teach healthy coping skills
Get moving. Take a walk, get outdoors, exercise.
Challenge a sense of hopelessness. Take action through volunteering for a cause important to you.
Make stress reduction a priority. Take care of yourself. Relax. Get sleep. 5 minutes of mindful meditation can go a long way.
Eat a healthy diet.
Stay connected with others. Know that you are not alone. Connect with family, friends or like-minded community. If you need additional help, reach out for support by calling a mental health professional.
The Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness 24/7 Access Line can be reached by calling 1-888-868-1649. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call or text 988 for the Suicide Crisis Lifeline. The SAMHSA Disaster Distress Line is also available toll free at 1-800-985-5990 or text at TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
To learn more about County of Santa Barbara Department of Behavioral Wellness, please visit https://www.countyofsb.org/274/Behavioral-Wellness.