The nuclear threat is growing, and it is very normal that it creates feelings of worry and anxiety in a lot of people. As a global campaign that speaks out about the catastrophic impact of nuclear weapons, we have a responsibility to help people handle this.
Here is a quick guide to how you can help others handle information about nuclear weapons and how to deal with your own anxiety and worry around nuclear war.
First, it is important to recognize that it is completely normal that thoughts about possible use of nuclear weapons and the consequences of that triggers feelings such as worry and anxiety.
The existence of nuclear weapons entails an existential threat to our world and everything we hold dear, which in many ways can be regarded as a greater threat than people's possible individual fear of their own death.
With the risk that nuclear weapons may be used, a special existential anxiety is aroused in that these weapons can eradicate entire cultures, lands, languages, lives, and future for so many people and animals in a way that becomes inconceivable for us to process. In addition, there is an enormous environmental impact and a great physiological and psychological suffering for the people who could survive in a war where nuclear weapons have been used.
How to mindfully talk to people about the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war:
When you want to get someone's attention for a particularly difficult issue like this, you should prepare for it. One way to prepare yourself and the person you want to talk to is to set aside time specifically for this, ask if there is an interest to listen, and invite and prepare the people you would like to talk to. You should make sure that the topic is clear in advance, as it can be perceived as a difficult topic to be surprised with. We must be aware that it is not an easy subject. People may have different ideas about what a nuclear war could mean and we must be aware that people deal with anxiety and worry very differently
2. Acknowledge emotions
Talking about difficult things often evokes emotions, which you should be aware of in order to be able to take care of them in a respectful way at the moment. Emotions are important in this context, and must not be discarded or dismissed. To be able to express emotions and put them into words, such as worry or sadness over what is happening is a way to deal with the anxiety and thereby feel better.
In difficult conversations where you get confirmation of what you really feel, it often has a calming effect.
3. Check in before ending the conversation
Before ending the conversation and perhaps going separate ways, make sure to check with each other that everyone feels ok. That can counteract feelings of loneliness when breaking up the conversation and going separate ways. In addition, the feeling of caring for each other then gets an opportunity to show up and reinforce a sense of togetherness.
How to think if you are feeling anxious about nuclear war:
1. Focus your thoughts on some key factual statements.
Nuclear war has not started.
We work to ensure that it never happens again.
Try to remind yourselves of these two facts and then aim to "end" the thought there so that catastrophic thoughts, imagination, and feelings of anxiety do not get too much space in your thoughts.
2. Focus on your breathing
It can help to remember to focus on your breathing for a while if you suddenly feel anxious. A calm breath alleviates anxiety and there are several established breathing techniques to address anxiety.
3. Sort through your different feelings
Sometimes feelings of anxiety can bring up several other things that you feel anxious about. You can try to sort through your anxiety and feel what is connected to the nuclear threat and what can be connected to something else in your life. Differentiating between the various issues and trying to deal with them separately can reduce the anxiety.
4. Take care of yourself
It is important to take care of yourself and your loved ones, to make sure you eat well, exercise, fresh air and good sleep. All of this is very important for mental health and recovery.
Writing down difficult thoughts and feelings works well for some.
You can try to break off any feelings of anxiety and fear by taking a pause and engaging in other activities. It is important to do things that you like and feel good about doing.
We hope that these concrete tips are helpful. At ICAN, we hope that everyone also remembers that there are many many people standing side by side, fighting for a better world right now. All over the world, people are doing what they can to stop war and nuclear weapons. You are not alone in this.
If you have questions about this, you can contact us via [email protected]