War has never felt so close. The rocket hit in Poland shows many how quickly the Ukraine conflict could escalate and spread to neighboring countries. And that’s scary. Trauma expert Thomas Loew explains how we deal with it.

“Nato”, “world war”, “escalation” – terms like these are trending on Twitter. The world is turning to Poland, where rockets killed two people on Monday night. So far everything seems to indicate that Putin is not behind this attack. He still scares. Because with the events in Poland, the war has not only moved forward into a NATO state, but also felt closer to us. In an interview with FOCUS online, trauma expert Thomas Loew explains how we can counter this fear.

Thomas Loew teaches psychosomatic medicine, psychotherapy and social medicine at the University of Regensburg. As chief physician, he heads the relevant departments at the University Hospital and the Dounaustauf Clinic. For 30 years he has been dealing with the consequences of traumatisation, one of his most well-known publications is “Brain Theater of War”. On his website www.prof-loew.de he also gives tips for self-stabilization.

“The war hasn’t really come any closer as a result, but it’s more present again,” says Loew, assessing the current situation. Older people are particularly affected. Younger people are often better at distracting themselves. “There’s even more energy, they want to get out after more than two years of the pandemic and finally experience something. Other worries take a back seat.”

The pandemic has done the rest anyway in terms of the burden on many people. “Now that normality could return, comes the next concern,” explains Loew. This takes many people back to the early days of the pandemic. “People are isolating themselves more again, both physically and mentally. They withdraw into their own bubble.”

It can often happen that the first symptoms of overload are not even perceived as such. Loew therefore names the most important alarm signals that you can use to identify one:

“Many people have several of these symptoms. Very often there is the thought: ‘I can’t influence what happens in the world anyway. No matter what I do, it doesn’t help anyway'”. But that’s exactly where the mistake lies, says Loew, and with it the chance to get out of this low.

“We’ve lived in an era of bliss since the ’80s,” Loew continues. Recently, a lot of things have worked that had not worked before. “But we have to be aware that world events have always been ups and downs and will continue to be,” he explains.

There were phases like the golden 20s – and then came the economic crisis. “And that’s how it is now,” emphasizes the trauma expert. “We have been very lucky for many years. And then Corona came. And now this war is coming.” But the good news is: “It’s getting better. We humans are living, creative beings. We will adapt. And then we will recover from it.”

In order to build up such resilience and maintain stability in crises, the trauma expert names a three-stage method. It is made up of the elements

According to Loew, you can do a stress test beforehand to determine the extent of the stress on you personally.

“As a first step, be aware of the following,” advises Loew: “No matter what is happening in the world: I can cope with my everyday life. I am able to regulate everyday things.” Even if the external influences had an effect on you and drained you: “You can cope with the current situation.”

In the second step, according to Loew, we should reflect on the meaning of our lives. “Remember,” advises Loew, “My life has a purpose. I have a clear focus on what I want to achieve for myself and my family. I know where I can draw my self-worth from.” Older generations in particular could be aware: “I am here for my children and grandchildren. And I help them to manage the situation in this situation as well as possible.”

The third step, according to Loew, is understanding the current situation. “This does not mean that you need to understand why Russian troops are invading Ukraine,” he stresses. Instead, it is about becoming aware of why the situation is affecting us so personally.

You should ask yourself something like: “I feel this way now because it has to do with my history, with the history of my family and with the history of my country. These memories overlay the situation and affect me.”

“We will overcome this crisis mentally,” Loew is sure. “If we now notice, for example, that petrol is getting expensive again – then saving will be cool again, like it was back in the 1970s. This is just a small example, but what I want to say is that we are flexible. We learn: The problems that I can’t solve are no longer problems at some point. Rather, they are challenges to find new ways.”