The nuclear threat is growing, and it is very normal for people to experience nuclear war anxiety as a result. As a global campaign that speaks out about the catastrophic impact of nuclear weapons, we have a responsibility to help people handle these feelings.
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 worries related to the threat of nuclear war.
Understand your feelings are normal
It’s normal to feel worried and anxious about thoughts of nuclear weapon use and its consequences. You are not alone in feeling scared of nuclear war, it is a common fear at this time.
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 navigate difficult conversations: talking about nuclear war
1. Prepare for the conversation
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 feelings and 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. Emotions must not be discarded or dismissed. Expressing emotions, such as worry or sadness, through words can help to deal with anxiety and improve emotional well-being.
Acknowledging and validating your emotions during tough conversations can often provide a sense of calm.
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 alleviate feelings of loneliness when the conversation ends. In addition, the feeling of caring for each other then gets an opportunity to show up and reinforce a sense of togetherness.
How to cope with nuclear war fears
1. Focus on 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. Identify and understand your feelings
Sometimes feelings of anxiety can bring up several other things that you feel scared or worried about. You can try to sort through your anxieties and identify 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. Practice mindfulness and self-care
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]