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8 Tips for Managing Stress Related to the War in the Middle East

By: Michelle Feder, Psy.D.

As the war in the Middle East persists, individuals continue to find themselves grappling

with the impact of this conflict on their mental and emotional well-being. Whether you

have personal connections to the region or are deeply concerned about the state of

affairs, navigating the emotional toll of such events is crucial. While the broader

geopolitical landscape may be beyond our control, there are ways to cope with the

stress and uncertainty that these situations bring into our lives. Below I have listed 8 tips

to help you manage stress:

1) Validate your emotions

It is normal to experience a wide range of emotions during times of conflict and

uncertainty. It is important to acknowledge the range of feelings that may arise,

such as fear, sadness, anger, guilt, or confusion. Allow yourself to feel and

express these emotions without self-judgment.

You can also validate your emotions by considering what your emotions are

communicating to you. For example, some people may feel angry when they

think about the ongoing war. Anger is often prompted by believing that a situation

is unfair or when a situation does not play out as expected. Rather than pushing

the anger away (e.g., telling yourself there is no reason to feel angry) or

expressing it in an unhelpful way (e.g., yelling at others), you can validate the

reasoning behind the emotion (e.g., say “it makes sense that I am feeling angry”)

and seek solutions to injustice that are within your control (e.g., attend a rally,

donate money).

2) Differentiate between fear and anxiety

Fear is a natural response to an immediate and identifiable threat, while anxiety

stems from anticipated or perceived danger. With the unfolding events in the

Middle East, there have been real threats to groups of individuals based on their

religion or nationality. It is crucial for these individuals to proactively respond to

these threats in order to safeguard their well-being. However, some people may

experience anxiety related to the war that is diffuse and not tied to a specific

threat. Consequently, they may make choices about how to act that are

unnecessarily limiting or may spend more time than they would like thinking

about potential danger. Although you cannot know whether you are over-

exaggerating the possibility of threat, remember that the experience of anxiety

does not make a threat more real or more likely to happen. You can choose to

calculate which risks you are willing to take based on the facts you currently hold

and whether the risk feels worthwhile to you.

3) Practice gratitude

Some individuals have been experiencing guilt as they freely go about their lives

with the awareness that people in the Middle East are enduring ongoing

suffering. Cultivating gratitude provides a constructive way to shift the focus from

unproductive guilt to a more helpful mindset. Instead of dwelling on the notion of

undeserved fortune, one can intentionally acknowledge and appreciate the

positive aspects of their life. Practice gratitude by regularly reflecting on the

things you are thankful for, whether they are simple pleasures, supportive

relationships, or personal achievements. Consider keeping a gratitude journal to

document these positive moments. Engaging in acts of kindness or giving back

to others can also be a powerful way to redirect emotions and create a positive

impact. By actively practicing gratitude, individuals can transform their

perspective, fostering resilience and a sense of connection to the broader


4) Limit social media use

The beauty of social media is its ability to offer real-time access to unfolding

news and cultivate a feeling of connection with those who are struggling with the

war. However, excessive exposure to news and social media can exacerbate

stress and anxiety. Stay informed, but set boundaries on your media

consumption. Choose reliable news sources and limit the time you spend

scrolling through social media platforms. Satisfy desires for connection by finding

alternate ways to engage meaningfully with others (see Tip #4).

5) Seek meaningful connections (or pause unhelpful ones)

You might experience a sense of isolation in navigating your thoughts and

emotions regarding the war. Consider confiding in friends or family who are

capable of offering emotional support and understanding. If certain relationships

or conversations heighten your stress levels, it is okay to redirect them or take a

temporary break from them. Reach out to individuals residing in the Middle East

or those directly impacted by the war to let them know that they are in your

thoughts. Remember, there are no perfect words, so do not let fear of saying the

“wrong” thing hinder your willingness to connect.

6) Engage in dialectical thinking

Dialectics involves the examination and resolution of seemingly contradictory

ideas or perspectives, a concept particularly relevant to people processing the

war in the Middle East. The complexity of this conflict often elicits strong,

polarized reactions and some individuals feel compelled to unequivocally support

one side. However, some individuals may feel conflicted about their beliefs and

allegiances, leading to feelings of shame or guilt for experiencing internal conflict.

Allow yourself to hold this dialectic, rather than push it away. While it may feel

uncomfortable to acknowledge the pain that both sides of the war are

experiencing or to express dissatisfaction with the side you generally support, it

can feel even worse to suppress your thoughts and feelings. Embracing

dialectical thinking also creates space for nuance and flexibility, which can help

foster a deeper understanding of the multifaceted nature of the conflict.

7) Engage in self-care

Taking care of yourself during times of stress is crucial for maintaining mental

and emotional well-being. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet,

and engage in regular exercise. Spend time on activities that are relaxing and

meaningful, such as reading, listening to music, spending time in nature, or

engaging in hobbies. Tune into your personal needs and respond accordingly,

whether that means taking time off from work or asking for help with managing

home responsibilities.

8) Seek professional help

You do not have to struggle alone. If you find that your stress and anxiety are

overwhelming and persistent, consider consulting a mental health professional

who can provide guidance, support, and coping strategies tailored to your

specific situation.

In navigating the complexities of stress related to the ongoing conflict in the Middle

East, it is crucial to recognize that the journey towards well-being is an ongoing process.

By implementing the tips provided, individuals can empower themselves to better

manage the emotional toll of these challenging times. Remember, it is not only okay but

essential to prioritize your mental and emotional health. As we collectively strive for

peace and understanding, taking proactive steps to care for ourselves and support one

another can make a meaningful difference in facing the complexities of the world around



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