Make a mental First Aid Kit for difficult moments

Marloes Harkema works as a Student Life Coach for WUR. You may also know her as an ACT Coach, or from Spectrum, where she gives monthly Grief & Writing workshops.

The war in Ukraine also leaves us grief-stricken in a way, she says. Losing a loved one touches every foundation of your life. You lose your vision of - and your confidence in - the future. Does that sound familiar?

For our newsletter, we asked Marloes for advice on how to cope with the overwhelming emotions caused by the news these days.

How does the news on Ukraine impact you?  

"It's terrible. The devastation, the people leaving everything behind, desperate to get out of the country. I spend a lot of time on my phone and follow the news closely. I try to put myself in the shoes of the Ukrainian people. But it's impossible to grasp, despite the reports, video’s and social media."

Many students are worried. What would you like to tell them?

First of all, what is happening in Ukraine is very disturbing. We do not know what is coming, how long it will take and what the consequences will be here in the Netherlands. And I’m not even talking about students and colleagues with family or friends in the war zone. Or the people who got involved by a leader they may not even support. It is very understandable that the situation affects you.

All hands on deck

"If you are overwhelmed by fear or anxiety, it is important to activate your coping mechanisms; you call all hands on deck. Everyone goes through difficult moments in their life. Sometimes more intense than other times. Ask yourself "What helps me get through this right now. What worked before when I was struggling?” That could be anything. From drinking coffee with a good friend, or putting your phone aside to walking in the woods or taking good care of yourself, getting enough sleep, eating healthy. You fill a kind of First Aid Kit for Difficult Moments

By 'All hands on deck' I also mean: every little bit helps. A walk or a good conversation doesn't take away your anxiety, but it can give some relief. And all those elements from your First Aid Kit added together will help you stay afloat."

How do you deal with fellow students who are directly involved?
Fortunately, we can get back together face-to-face, talk to each other, ask questions. It’s important to assess carefully if people want to talk to you about it. If they do, listen without judgment or solution. As a Wageningen student, you will find yourself in a unique international community. If possible, find the connection with each other.

Grief & Writing

"Every last Sunday of the month I give an online Grief Writing workshop at Spectrum. Together we do writing exercises, which we read to each other. This helps the participants to talk about their grief and we learn from each other what helps when you are sad.

You are always welcome, also if you mourn the current situation in the world."