First there was Corona and now there´s the fear of war. Although the Ukraine crisis primarily affects Ukrainians, the images are also triggering a wave of fear across other European countries and are having an impact on work and productivity. Who can concentrate when World War III is looming? According to a recent survey by NTV, 69% of respondents have this fear. How companies and executives should deal with the situation, can be read in this article.
What do you need to know about fear of war?
“War in Europe.” These bad news on February 24, 2022, with images of tanks and bombed-out apartment buildings threw us off our – just regained – balance. When Vladimir Putin hints at nuclear weapons and makes savage threats, anger and fear mix in our guts to form a burning Molotov cocktail.
Most of us have never experienced the terrors of war. Sadly, we are now in a situation where war is not a distant story from the past anymore. When grandparents told us about war or when we saw certain scenes in news reports which let us empathize with those involved, we experienced a fear of war. With the current images from Ukraine, these feelings are reactivated and, depending on the assessment of the threat situation and controllability, interpreted in the subconscious as real danger. When this happens, our entire body is prepared for fight or flight behavior with the above-mentioned cocktail of hormones. A cruel feeling that many – supposedly uninvolved – people experience in the middle of their living room in front of the TV.
Yet this fearful reaction may have already saved our lives once, because it enabled us to act quickly and decisively. This is why our brain stores an experienced reaction of fear for the future, so that it can be recalled even more quickly. People with anxiety disorders, develop a kind of “fear memory” that triggers the fear alarm at the slightest environmental stimuli.
Now is the time for managers to offer support
Managers are not therapists. Rummaging around in feelings without being asked is an assault and a clear violation of personal boundaries. Nevertheless, no one should be left alone with negative feelings at work – regardless of whether their origin is work-related or not. After all, such negative thoughts affect the work performance.
Managers must not overlook the silent alarms and should take action before sickness rates rise and productivity decreases. Perhaps you have already experienced the first signs of this yourself in your everyday life: “Doomscrolling” or “Doomsurfing” means spending an excessive amount of time on the screen following negative news. In the process, one often doesn’t receive any new information at all, but is rather fed the same content over and over again. Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, sees doomscrolling as a coping mechanism. Doomscrolling aims to gain control over a situation by gathering as much information as possible. However, if the information is not turned into action, doomscrolling doesn’t really help with anxiety management, but instead leaves the affected person mired in the negative news with their anxiety growing steadily.
☝ The entire workforce bears responsibility for the well-being of everyone. So, it’s not just up to the managers – every person can initiate wonderful actions and thus fulfill this responsibility.
7 tips to strengthen resilience from fear of war
It is important that the issue is not forced on anyone. Many feel safe and isolated from war anxiety in the workplace. No person should be deprived of this opportunity. Generally, people themselves have a good sense of when they want to talk about their fears or take active action. Besides the simple invitation to talk, resilience research offers six other approaches that can be very helpful in this context.
1. Open door for a one-on-one meeting
Offer yourself as a discussion partner at the next team meeting. “I am currently very concerned about the war. If anyone wants to talk about it, I’d be happy to have a chat in the coffee kitchen,” for example. If you’d rather get professional support, you can organize virtual one-on-one meetings with psychologists at instahelp.me.
2. Acceptance of the situation
Alone or in a group, you can try to separate the facts from fears. This helps to internalize what cannot be changed and what has not yet changed. The locally waged war is a temporary phase in Ukraine and does not currently radiate any threat to life outside Ukraine.
3. Radiate a healthy optimism
This only works if you are confident yourself. Especially when it comes to the impact on the company, you can make yourself aware of the crises the company has already mastered in the past. And about the third world war: No one, not even Vladimir Putin, wants one.
4. Leave the victim role and become active
We tend to pass the blame, and thus the responsibility, to third parties. But what good does it do us in the current situation if Putin is to blame? By taking action, we leave the victim role behind and take responsibility for our own feelings. Even simple things like making a donation or taking part in a demonstration can help.
5. Book a workshop on mindful self-leadership and resilience
Taking life as it comes and taking responsibility over our feelings is an ongoing learning process. The more often we manage it, the more resilient and happier we become. This learning process can be fostered with targeted workshops – virtual or face-to-face. The focus should be on teaching practical tools for developing individual and collective resilience. In our workshop “Resilience: Strengthening our capability of resistance“, we address the fears surrounding the Ukraine conflict and work together to develop solutions for them. Thereby, participants experience self-empowerment and develop enthusiasm for the resilience approach.
6. Feel the community and your relationships
A strong sense of community actually acts as a shield in the face of anxiety. Especially in times like these, a sense of togetherness and an intact team culture is more important than ever. After all, we are not alone! But even this protective shield needs to be continuously maintained and repaired, something that has unfortunately been neglected in many places over the past two years due to the pandemic. Here you will find ideas for online team building.
7. Reduce psychological stress physically
Sports, meditation and walks can help to reduce the hormonal cocktail of anxiety faster. This releases endorphins, which increase well-being and provide a positive attitude.
In a war, everyone loses. We feel the effects at the gas station as well as during the “good night” routine with our children. It is important to make a conscious distinction between feelings, values and actual events.
Those who want to master the situation with optimism can perceive an exemplary unity around the globe on common values and rejoice in the remarkable cohesion of countless states. We defend our values with painful sanctions, participate in demonstrations and help with generous donations. Those who want to believe in the good see a change in the way we deal with geopolitical problems – let’s keep it up!