Hope for Peace; Cope with War

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In the past weeks, I have had many conversations with my students from many parts of the world about War. In many classrooms across the world, the Ukraine crisis has opened up many wounds that are difficult to heal. Being in a diverse international environment allows us educators the opportunity to listen to multiple perspectives; most of the time we agree to disagree whilst respecting each other’s perspectives to find a commonality in our understanding of the greater good or the bigger picture. But war forces us to take sides, no matter how much we have suffered through relentless conflict we continue to inflict pain and misery as we take sides.

A Russian student taking the side of her country cannot be dismissed. It is a challenging situation when the cause and effect are conflicting, for example, the student understands that war is not good yet justifies a war led by her country due to social, cultural and personal perspectives. At the same time, some students have been victims of war over the past five decades; students from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Armenia and many more countries, who have been displaced from their motherlands.

We hope that peace will prevail, but all we do is cope with war with no coping mechanism. As educators, we are empowered to influence and teach young minds. One of the most important things to teach students is to cope with extreme situations and environments or was. War brings a known enemy to your doorstep, whether you are directly or indirectly impacted by war, this enemy does not differentiate, it is called fear.  This fear destroys our young who have to endure a level of anxiety that is unavoidable and omnipresent.  So what can we do? We can teach to cope and hope for peace.

Here are a few simple strategies I discussed with my students to help them deal with the fear, anger, anxiety and pain caused by war.

Stay Away from Fake News: In times of crisis, it is very easy to get addicted to News. Even worse as most of the information is biased and sometimes a deep fake. Fake news misinforms, misinterprets and misleads the viewer to a state of fear. Fear sells, the electronic and digital media have mastered the art of selling fear through fake news. Overconsumption of fake news leads to a permanent state of anxiety, so stay away.

Learn to Pivot: In times of uncertainty, the ability to pivot or deal with change is an asset. War cripples daily life and impacts the availability of basic resources. This means we need to adapt quickly to survive the unexpected, or pivot to survive the unexpected. Teach students the ability to pivot, plan for contingency and prepare for a crisis situation.

Find a Happy Place: In times of acute distress, finding a happy place requires one to muster up all the positive experiences in their life. To keep mental sanity, one has to have a happy place; it could be the feeling when you hug your loved ones; the feeling when you spend time with family; the feeling of your first love/crush; the feeling of smelling the spring in the air; the feeling of the aroma of freshly baked cake; the feeling of being happy. Find your happy place, it will help you to navigate the feeling of distress and helplessness.

Take a deep breath: Learn to take a deep breath, practise controlling your thoughts and avoid your triggers. This can be done via meditation or practising to stay calm, it could be through something that helps you focus, like painting, playing an instrument or even singing aloud. Allow your brain to focus on the positives to control your thoughts. 

Keep the hope alive: Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “Where there is hope there is life”. This was written at a time when Anne was caught in one of the most horrific conflicts in the history of mankind. It was hope that kept her alive and has kept her memory alive. Without hope, there would be no Anne Frank’s diary-a testament to resilience, perseverance and courage. In many senses, hope is courage, hope is life and hope is peace. To survive a war we need hope we need peace.

Wherever and whoever you are in the world, teach yourself and your younger generation these coping strategies. As the war rages hope will rise above the ashes of destruction and desperation to usher the wave of peace.

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