Stressful conditions: What will 2023 be like for Ukrainians

9 January, 04:43 PM

2023 will be a year of post-traumatic growth and expanding the horizons of our life's plans

The war has brought a lot of pain, uncertainty, fear, and suffering. Ukrainians have faced a high level of stress, experienced survivor's guilt, witnessed trauma, and been through other difficult psychological conditions. Typical behavior, values and priorities are changing, culminating in social and personal psychological crises.

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However, at the same time, Ukrainian society has demonstrated an impressive level of resilience: we do not see the majority of Ukrainians experiencing any particular apathy, despair, and pessimism, but instead showing a proactive life position, confidence in their own abilities, a lower-than-expected level of negative emotions and anxiety, and the ability to at least partially maintain or restore normal ways of life. This is influenced by the ability to create strong horizontal connections and good social capital, to maintain communication, and to use coping strategies to overcome crises, which have been learned to “perfection” over the past 30 years. We have also seen the disappearance of inferiority complexes and a strengthening of self-esteem and pride for the country: we have become visible to the world, and our voices and actions count for a lot.

The risks for 2023 regarding psychological viability continue to be uncertainty for the future, a narrow planning horizon, family problems due to separation (forced emigration), a decrease in the level of trust in others, and somatic and mental disorders due to excessive long-term stress.

The importance of communication

In general, stressful events in a person's life like war significantly increase the desire to be with others – the people who are close and important to us. Communication and a sense of unity and belonging play a special role at such a time; here, communication, in addition to its direct functions, helps us to stabilize ourselves, reduce anxiety, respond to our feelings, and give others the opportunity to do so. Therefore, interaction with others and building trusting relationships will remain a priority value in 2023.

Psychological adaptation

Today, we can conditionally divide society into those who were able to adapt and those who could not. According to the high level of sustainability, those who have adapted are significantly greater, and in 2023 their number will grow and they will take part in the reconstruction of the country. Those who have "adapted" have high resilience, low emotional stress and psychological exhaustion, and use adequate strategies to overcome stressful situations. They do not expect the war to end "tomorrow/in a week", live "in flux" and have made the war "a background, not a figure". 

"Non-adapted" people experience significant emotional stress, tend to limit themselves, feel guilt, fear, shame, suspicion and mistrust of others. Strategies to overcome stress here are not effective and lead to the appearance of depressed psychological states: depression and anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, in 2023, the conditions of those who failed to adapt will deepen and they will need more and more psychological and social support.

Plans for the future

2023 will be a year of post-traumatic growth and expansion of the horizons of our life’s plans. Among the plans that are being voiced more often are opening businesses, professional development, and getting additional education. Plans to to return home, whether from other regions or from abroad, are also a strong sustaining force in the difficult, uncertain situation of war, because this goal stabilizes us and makes life meaningful. War always means changes, but it also opens windows of opportunity. Those who understand this and are able to think strategically will be at an advantage and will be able to recover psychologically more quickly.

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