How to maintain mental hygiene: OSINT-investigator, volunteer, heroic Ukrainians?

❗️ The advice from this article is not a replacement for full medical care that can be provided by psychotherapists in person. 

In this material, we want to raise the topic of mental health. Since the beginning of the "great war" on February 24, the life of Ukrainians has changed dramatically. The fact that the human psyche can withstand such loads is a real miracle that cannot last forever. To a greater or lesser extent, every citizen of Ukraine is now exposed to aggressive content: photos and videos of destruction, extremist materials, cruel shots, images of wounded and dead people – all this puts a lot of pressure on the psyche. We want to give advice that will keep your psyche within the normal range. 

This advice is provided on behalf of Molfar OSINT community investigators whose work is directly related to "sensitive materials". There is no best and worst in this matter: everyone has a different threshold of sensitivity and mental capacity. However, we can say exactly that the more time you consume violent content, the more likely you are to have problems. Investigators, volunteers and ordinary Ukrainians – these tips will be useful for everyone. 

Vicarious Trauma: what is it, and why should we remember about it? 

For the first time, people who provided psychological support to victims of unprovoked violence, including sexual violence, started talking about this phenomenon. At some point, professionals who provided assistance began to experience the same symptoms as victims of violence. Thus, the world learned about "Vicarious Trauma" and many other interesting things about the defense mechanisms of the human psyche. 

We consume content on the Internet, there is a full-scale war in the country, thousands of people have lost their property, health and even lives. The information flow is overload with "sensitive information". And since people are empathic creatures, we begin to feel other people's pain. 

👉 As a result of empathic experience of information, the human psyche is capable of causing physical harm to the body. 

The effect of "Vicarious Trauma" can be sudden, but more often it is cumulative. You feel normal for a long time, and then in one moment it's too late. Therefore, now we will advise on how to avoid psychologically traumatic consequences.

How to protect the psyche from "Vicarious Trauma"?

1️⃣ Reduce information channels. A healthy number of news channels is up to five. Everything else is either work-related or you want to overload yourself once again. Even twice duplicated information becomes an extra burden for your psyche. 

2️⃣ Filter the information. Everything that gets into your head will stay in it forever. Before you dive into another "sensitive story", ask yourself: "Do I need this?". You will be surprised, but in most cases you do not need it. And this is not about indifference to the war, but about adequate care for your own mental health. We officially allow you not to feel guilty if you won't watch all the photos and videos from the shelled frontline cities. 

3️⃣ Use image blur while working. You can use, for example, the Google Chrome extension Blur. It blurs all images on the pages by default. This way, you will protect yourself from accidental viewing of dangerous media files.

4️⃣ Turn off the sound when watching videos. Some videos that have to be viewed during investigations can be traumatic. And audio can be even more traumatic than visual images. The screams of people in burning buildings, the cries of mothers... It has been proven by experience: first, "click" the video without sound along its entire length, then watch it without sound. And only then, if necessary, watch the video with sound. This will distribute the load and protect your psyche from trauma. 

5️⃣ Separate work and personal life. Not in words, but in actions. For example, if you, like most Ukrainians, work at home – wear business clothes "to work". And after work, change it to another, home clothes. The advice applies to both investigators and volunteers, as well as people of other professions. During work, you are focused and concentrated, and therefore less vulnerable. During rest, you should rest, including from the content. 

6️⃣ Talk about what you have seen with others. However, do it with care for people, avoid situations when you "move your furniture into someone else's house". That is, do not make two sick heads out of one sick head. And do not expect that talking to others will be a panacea. Other people, just like you, are information overloaded. A conversation that eases the emotional state of both speakers is the best option. 

7️⃣ Praise yourself. Even for the fact that you are reading this article now. This is already a great thing, you are trying to improve your own condition! This is worth a couple of kind words to yourself. And you continue to live and work in a country where there is a war. So, you support the economy, and therefore make a great contribution to the struggle for freedom! This is in addition to what you do for the army! 

8️⃣ Seek professional help. And it is better even before you feel bad. A psychotherapist is a great support at any stage of life, any stage. If you have a request, and you definitely do, take the opportunity to take care of yourself. Because you are the bright future of Ukraine itself, remember it. 

9️⃣ Eat well and exercise. A healthy diet is a huge support for the psyche. More simple food, fresh food, live food. Less heavy, sweet and fatty foods. As for physical activity, simple exercises with your own weight will have the best effect: first a warm-up, then a minimal load – a total duration of up to 10 minutes.

And remember that #LifeWillWin, and we will definitely rise that red viburnum ☀️🙌🍀

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