Stuart Katz

Staying Strong Amidst the Storm: Prioritizing Mental Health in Times of Conflict

The recent escalation of tensions between Israel and its adversaries, namely Iran and its proxies, has undoubtedly taken a toll on the mental well-being of the Israeli people as well as those aligned with Israel around the world. As we navigate this volatile and uncertain landscape, we must prioritize our mental health and find ways to cope with the immense stress and anxiety that comes with living in a state of heightened conflict.

The briefings that have been given throughout the day paint a sobering picture of the scope and intensity of the threats facing Israel. The sheer scale of the attack from Iran and its proxies, with over 350 missiles, drones, and rockets targeting our homeland, is a stark reminder of the fragility of peace and the ever-present danger that looms. While we can take solace in the fact that our defensive coalition, with assistance from our allies, was able to intercept 99% of these threats, the emotional impact of such an onslaught cannot be overstated.

In this crisis, feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and even powerless is understandable. The constant state of vigilance and the urgent need to rescue our hostages from the clutches of Hamas can seem like an insurmountable challenge. However, in these times of adversity, we must draw upon our inner strength and resilience and from one another.

One of the most important steps we can take to safeguard our mental health is to prioritize self-care. This may involve relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, or mindfulness practices. Finding ways to decompress and create pockets of tranquility amidst the chaos is crucial. Regular physical activity, whether a brisk walk, a yoga session, or a team sport, can also be tremendously beneficial in managing stress and anxiety.

Maintaining a sense of community and connection during these challenging times is equally important. Reaching out to friends, family, and support networks can provide a much-needed emotional outlet and a sense of belonging. Sharing our experiences and fears with trusted loved ones can help us feel less alone and more understood.

Moreover, seeking professional help is essential if the emotional burden becomes too overwhelming. Therapists and counselors can offer invaluable guidance and tools to help us navigate our complex emotions and challenges. Accessing these resources should not be seen as a sign of weakness but rather as an act of courage and self-care.

As we continue to confront the ongoing threats and uncertainties, let us remember that our mental health is just as crucial as our physical security. By prioritizing our well-being and employing effective coping strategies, we can emerge from this crisis more robust, resilient, and better equipped to face whatever challenges may lie ahead as we pray for better days soon.

About the Author
Stuart is a co-founder of the Nafshenu Alenu mental health educational initiative founded in 2022. He currently serves on the Board of Visitors of McLean Hospital, affiliated with Harvard University Medical School. He serves as Chairman of the Board of OGEN – Advancement of Mental Health Awareness in Israel; chairman of Mental Health First Aid Israel and a partner in “Deconstructing Stigma” in Israel. He is on the Board of Directors of the Religious Conference Management Association. He has counseled over 7,000 individuals and families in crisis