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Living in uncertain times


Bild: Youssef Naddam auf Unsplash


Many people feel out of balance these days, horrified and dismayed by the multiple crises surrounding us. Humanitarian catastrophes, wars, natural disasters, and climate change account for that, as are the consequences of the energy crisis and inflationary trends that have already occurred.

Feelings of helplessness, loss of control, grief, fear and also anger can arise at an intensity that is difficult to bear. A feeling of numbness and emptiness may arise in others. The security of your own and others life seems to be in serious doubt accompanied by the uncertainty of our future, that of Europe and the world.

In order to stay strong, retain courage and hope in times of uncertainty, it is important to take good care of oneself. Whether it is to support others or to restore one's own psychological balance - self-care is essential. At the same time, with the images and reports that affect us, it can be very difficult to take good care of ourselves and meet our own needs.

For some people, feelings of guilt arise, "When other people are suffering, I should not be feeling well either.”

In order to be able to help others, it's crucial to be in a position where you can offer help to others. We must continue to engage in things that provide us strength, joy, relaxation, and distraction; it is not selfish to do so. Without such activities we cannot recharge our mental battery and we loose our mental strength to get through this uncertain, stressful time.


What happens psychologically under severe stress and uncertainty?

In such crisis situations our body reacts with a stress response. The following symptoms can occur, which usually become less again by adapting to the changed situation:


  • Tension, irritability, anxiety, nervousness
  • Palpitations, pressure on the chest
  • Sleep problems, changes in appetite, digestive difficulties, headaches
  • Cognitive complaints such as poor concentration, distractibility, losing one's train of thought
  • Imposing images of what has been experienced or seen
  • Lack of energy, exhaustion
  • Mood swings, intensified negative emotions such as fear, despair, anger, crying
  • Emotional numbness, feeling of being beside oneself


What helps to deal with strong stresses and insecurities?


Your feelings are a normal and valid psychological reaction when facing an emergency. Don't be too hard on yourself, don't try to suppress your emotions, and don't try push yourself to the breaking point.

  • This is where decluttering your everyday routine might be useful. Do you think you could temporarily relieve yourself by putting off some tasks? Or perhaps you might ask for the help of a close one?


Exercises that promote mindfulness and physical activity are particularly effective for reducing chronically high levels of stress and becoming caught up in negative thought patterns. Your focus automatically shifts away from the negative thoughts and feelings to the momentary awareness of the body. Instead of worrying about possible future developments, the here and now is experienced. Physical activity reduces physical tension.

  • Support yourself by engaging in daily activities that bring pleasure and help you to refresh. This helps with compensation of unbearable feelings. Plan specific times for relaxation as well. Even small, everyday things can be helpful here. For example, enjoying a cup of coffee or tea in the sun. Or going for a walk. Small things matter a great deal.


A familiar and reoccurring setting helps to counteract the feeling of great uncertainty and inability to act, to not be unnecessarily alone and to continue with everyday tasks. Organize your everyday life in such a way that you build good and sustainable habits:

  • Make regular reliable appointments with friends or relatives.
  • Stick to routines and daily routines
  • Talk to others about your worries and fears. If you find that the exchange is exhausting and stressful rather than helpful, you may say so, suggest a change of topic, or excuse yourself from a troubling conversation.


Being exposed to heavy stress can have a negative impact on sleep. It can then also be difficult to relax. 

  • Stop dealing with stressful topics at least two hours before you go to bed.
  • Maintain a set sleeping schedule
  • Establish a calming ritual to help you wind down and fall asleep (e.g., read a book or listen to an audio book)
  • Learn calming breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation ILIAS der JLU Gießen - Entspannungsverfahren (
  • Sometimes it seems tempting to "turn off" your thoughts by consuming alcohol or other substances.  Here you should be careful and not consume more alcohol or other substances over a longer period of time.

With stress often come feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. This is often associated with a feeling of paralysis.

  • Here it helps to take action yourself. Before doing so, however, consider what you bring to the table and what you can and cannot do about it. Make sure that the commitment is not overwhelming, to avoid you burning out or giving up prematurely.
  • Taking action includes many things: from donating money or goods to raising your voice in a demonstration, helping in initial reception facilities, sorting donations or being there for fellow human beings and family members.


Negative headlines are very present in the media. Many images, some of them very horrific, are visible on social channels. Attention is automatically and selectively focused on information that is emotionally significant to us. There are several appropriate ways to escape this pull.

  • Limit your media consumption and abstain from news channels
  • Set up fixed times to consume news (e.g., 2x/day at fixed times for a set period of time).
  • Give others STOP signs that you don't want to hear about it right now
  • Selectively focus attention on positive things (attention = flashlight; you hold it in your hand and decide for yourself which situations and topics it should illuminate)
  • Decide which medium holds appropriate information
  • Instead of videos and photos, which have a strong emotion-activating effect, get information via radio or newspaper


You are welcome to contactif you are experiencing any of the above difficulties and would like individual support in a conversation. Our services are available to students of any background who are feeling stressed.

Schedule an appointment here or email

Information and advice on the topic of trauma in Ukrainian can be found here, and in Russian here.