• Time for unity and solidarity- Our Response

01 March 2022

A Message From Our Chief De-Stressing Officer

During challenging moments that are charged with high emotion it’s always hard to know what to say, or even if we should say anything at all. This sadly results in many people simply saying nothing.

The Stress Management Society and International Wellbeing Insights family and I are deeply concerned about the conflict in Ukraine and the impact that this is having on ordinary people just wishing to live their lives in safety and freedom. As an organisation that operates globally and has been leading the way in pursuit of a happier, healthier more resilient world for almost twenty years we recognise the importance of using our voice and platform to show solidarity with those who face oppression and those who are calling for peace.

You may find yourself experiencing a myriad of emotions, from anger to sadness, fear, disbelief, indignation, confusion, despair, anxiousness, nervousness or feelings of indifference and detachment. This experience has triggered memories of war buried deep in my subconscious.

At the age of 8, whilst on summer vacation visiting my family in Kenya, a military coup took place. We found ourselves in a war zone, with fighter jets flying overhead and the sound of shelling and gunshots became the theme tune for that trip. It was a frightening and confusing experience; it was the first time in my life I had to reflect on death and what it meant to me. I saw plenty of dead bodies (for the first time in my life) and had to tragically deal with the death of an uncle – the first memory I have of the passing of a family member. It was an experience that imprinted me for life.

Sadly many children across Ukraine (and Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and many other places around the world) are having the same experience today. I am not here to discuss the politics of war, who is right and who is wrong. We are here to listen, show compassion, empathy and provide support in any way we can. Everyone has a right to express their opinions, beliefs, emotions and feelings – even if they are not in line with the popular narrative. This is how we learn, grow and get better at showing empathy towards even those who have vastly different perspectives to us. The levels of polarity and anger we are witnessing in the general discourse only serve to create more divisions. We need openness, the willingness to listen, the ability to show compassion and empathy as the antidote to the disharmony and disunity that seem to be growing around the world.

I do not believe any human is born violent, and in our heart of hearts I am sure most (if not all people) reject war, unprovoked aggression, violence and acts of wilful destruction that are happening across the world. Yet many of us manage to ignore, override or turn a blind eye just so we can get through our day. We get on with our work, our social lives, enjoy our homes, time with family and friends… even though many people through a quirk of fate happen to be born in a place where all of that may be lost in a blink of an eye. The lost sense of safety, security, freedom and belonging was replaced with a complete focus on fighting for survival. What if that was us?

This save the children campaign really drives this message home:

I am not asking you to agree or subscribe to my view or opinions. I am purely expressing my feelings from the 8-year-old boy in me that has had a direct first-hand experience of war and the terror, confusion, sadness and fear he had experienced. That little boy still harbours disbelief that people can do this to each other, the overwhelm at the consequences of the current situation, and the overriding drive to want to do something to help. How can I help? What can I do to help stop this madness? Then another thought pops into my head, where I say to myself: “Why on earth do I think I can do anything. I am nothing, a nobody.” This could result in me just blindly continuing with my day. Blocking out the emotion, suppressing and overriding my feelings as well as compromising my core values so I can get through the day. If I choose to believe there is not much that I can do then I am right.

My team and I have not chosen to believe this story – we want to inspire and empower people, to find their voice and their power to be able to stand for the change they wish to see in the world. We believe in our own small way we can do contribute to making things better.

Just imagine for one moment us coming together in unity, in a way that is so natural to us as it’s how nature designed us – not the way we have been programmed by modern society. Coming together in a sense of community. Standing for one another in the most profound way. Uniting against terror, violence and oppression. Not needing to use violence as our leverage, however using our hearts and minds. Starting with rejecting the lies and propaganda that only seek to programme us to think, act and behave in a particular way. Through choosing to reconnect with our core values, with our innate humanity and to avert the path to oblivion that some seem hell-bent on.

We appeal to all parties to pursue peaceful means and options to resolve this crisis. War and violence can never be the solution, as they inevitably result in death, destruction, humanitarian tragedies and the violation and denial of human rights including the right to live and work in a safe and healthy environment.

Our team and I would like to express our full support to our clients, partners, friends and colleagues in Ukraine, their families, and all people wherever they are based that have been affected by this unfolding tragedy – including the innocent ordinary citizens of Russia who will also inevitably suffer as a result of the sanctions against their country.

Together, let us use our voices, and our platforms to renounce war and demand peace.

We ask you all to use your voices and social media platforms consciously at this time – not for purposes of vanity and self-aggrandization, or for profanity to spread anger, hate or indignation to those that don’t see the world in the same way as you, instead use your platforms to spread universal truths, love, compassion, empathy and messages of inspiration and inclusivity. #sanitynotvanityorprofanity

If you can please donate to charities supporting the humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. Here is a non-exhaustive list of organisations that are asking for assistance. Donations can be made through the links to their websites or social media pages.

– The British Red Cross’ Ukraine Crisis Appeal – https://donate.redcross.org.uk/appeal/ukraine-crisis-appeal 

– Save the Children’s Ukraine Crisis Appeal – https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/where-we-work/europe/ukraine

– Depaul International’s Ukraine Emergency Appeal, which is on the ground in Ukraine supporting the homeless and displaced – https://int.depaulcharity.org/fundraising-for-depaul-ukraine/

– Voices of Children – https://voices.org.ua/en/ 

We  #standwithukraine  and we would like to offer free support to all our clients that have offices or employees in Ukraine. Please get in touch. So we can find a way to best support you and your employees. 

We’re here to listen.

Let us know if this message resonated with you, and also do let us know if you don’t agree with the sentiments expressed here. All views and opinions are welcomed.

Wishing you all the best at this difficult and challenging time,

Love life and smile,

Neil Shah and the entire International Wellbeing Insights and The Stress Management Society Team.