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It is so very hard to watch: ghastly images of bombs going off in Ukraine, Russian convoys, defenceless women and children in makeshift bomb shelters. If this is causing you to feel overwhelmed with emotion, know you are not alone.
I can tell you that it breaks my heart to see how it is affecting my parents, children of parents who came to Canada from Ukraine in the early 20th century. In moments when we are confronted with events like the crisis in Ukraine, that feel way beyond our control, it is critical for us to think about our response. Why?
Why our response matters
Our response to any events has a bigger impact on us than we realize. How we respond to seemingly out of control situations can wear us down and impact our mental health. On top of that, how we respond and how we are affected by it can have a big influence on the people around us, not to mention how energy consuming it can be to try affect change.
What can we do?
We can start with building tools that help us manage our emotions, and there is ample evidence we have the ability to do so. We are never limited to whatever skills we currently have. Building these skills takes time, there is no short-cut, but the investment will pay us back for the rest of our lives as we will continue to face challenging situations.
How can we do that?
One way is to build new, healthy habits, such as walking with the Last 8% Morning podcast. Why do we encourage you to walk? Because we know that “mood follows movement”.
This is the first hack to help manage emotions: "when you are feeling ‘off’, move!"
It could be a 15–20-minute walk, but the duration or intensity of the walk is really a personal choice. We know, however, that when we walk, our muscles secrete myokines into the blood, which has several positive effects on our brain.
For one, it makes us more resilient so we can bounce back faster. It also helps us experience any moments of joy we encounter throughout the day with more intensity, which helps us regulate emotions more effectively. All that just by moving!
In the Last 8% Morning podcast, we don’t offer instructions in sitting mindfulness, we teach walking mindfulness. Why? After 24 years working with Olympic athletes, NFL and NBA teams, Navy Seals and individuals in organizations around the world, we have learned that people find mindfulness easier to learn walking than sitting still.
Research tells us: walking regularly every day for just 8 weeks is long enough to begin the process of neuro-architecting our brain: this means changing our brain in a way that our higher centers can have a tamping down effect on the emotional centers of our brain, helping us regulate emotions. How cool is that?
Over time, we begin to see that emotions have a natural rhythm of coming and going, and when we are able to see that, we can stop clinging to them so tightly. As the Jamaican spiritual teacher Mooji said:
“Feelings are just visitors, let them come and go.”
Actions you can take to help
Finally, once you feel a bit more grounded around the emotions you are experiencing, there are things you can do to exert some influence on the situation in Ukraine (which helps emotional regulation further because we feel less helpless).
- Call your representative at the federal level and let them know that it matters to you that we support Ukraine in any way we can. This can absolutely make a difference: pressure from the public has already lead to the implementation of economic sanctions, like removing Russian banks from the Swift system, which hinders international transactions and trade and is having an impact on Russian economy.
- Another innovative way to help people in Ukraine is to book and pay for an Airbnb room there. The money goes directly to the civilians who own the Airbnb. In the last two weeks, people from 165 countries have booked more than 430,000 nights at Ukrainian homes on Airbnb, without any intention of using the rooms, but simply to support Ukrainian hosts. Airbnb has waived all guest and host fees for bookings in Ukraine, so the money from these reservations go directly to the hosts.
This is not an easy time, but we are not without things we can do to manage our emotions and make a difference.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said:
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.