We turn on the news and hear the announcements that summer festivals will be reinstated in full force and that mask mandates are easing; before we can decide how we feel about this news, the gut punching images of men and women waving goodbye to their children so that they can stay and fight for their homes in the Ukraine remind us that we are still holding our breaths for our fellow human beings.
The hope for better days is certainly what keeps the optimist afloat when life gets hard, and with spring around the corner, those suffering from the winter blues are starting to feel a little hopeful as well, but this is not the case for our European neighbors that have gone from one crisis into another. The chronic state of stress they have experienced for the last two years, followed by another crisis is surely too much to ask of anyone. There is no doubt that the adrenaline of protecting what is rightfully theirs is designed to give them the internal drive to do what they need to do; the body does so by responding with increased heart rate, blood pressure and providing energy to sustain you. In addition, cortisol is also released to suppress immunity, reproductive and digestive systems while the body tends to the current threat. In most situations, this is often regulated once the crisis/threat has passed and all systems work to get back on line. This is not the case with chronic stress; the excessive exposure to stress hormones keeps the body in a constant state of fight or flight. The consequence of this could include depression, anxiety, heart disease/attack, high blood pressure/stroke, digestive issues, mood issues, to name a few.
We do not know how long our European neighbors will have to sustain this state of vigilance, but we do know that for those of us watching their plight, as we ourselves are still processing a global pandemic, will have to be intentional about our own wellbeing if we are to be able to support anyone else. Talk to your doctor about any physical symptoms you may be experiencing, reach out to a mental health professional to support you in identifying healthier coping strategies. Enough cannot be said about the importance of attending to our own basic needs, like sleeping, eating and exercise. It’s true, they are the foundation for wellness; for as little as we can control in this world, we can work to take care of ourselves in small ways to allow us to be available to others.