How To: Cope With The News
Mass murders. Bigotry. Violent protests. Racism. Nuclear War. The list could go on…
These are the topics that we are faced with on a daily basis. This is our new normal. Anyday, anytime, anywhere, we have access to see horrific, traumatizing and heartbreaking news from across the world. The media fuels us with news that seems impossible to look away from despite the horror.
After awhile, we have to wonder: “How do we cope?” and “How much is too much?”
While it’s important to stay up-to-date on society and impactful news, there are cognitive changes from this consumption that can occur and lead us to losing our sense of optimism towards the world.
And if you have a predisposition to a mental health disorder, bad news could worsen the effects of your condition and could actually make you seek out more bad news than the average person.
Anxiety, depression, stress, hopelessness, fear, malaise are all common reactions to constantly being exposed to negativity. So how do we cope? How do we care about what’s going on in the world, while prioritizing our own wellbeing?
We're here to help.
Like we said, people with a predisposition to a mental health disorder, like anxiety or depression, could be effected by negative news more than the average person. If you have PTSD, anxiety, depression or trauma in your background, be aware of this and know that your media consumption should be monitored differently.
If you are predisposed and are having a hard time coping, reach out to a mental health professional, counselor or psychologist for help.
Larger news outlets can focus on minute details, ad nauseam. Their coverage is 24/7, repetitive and intensive. Sometimes, those details can become overwhelming and unnecessary.
Choose a news outlet that will provide you a general understanding of situations without graphic details. We recommend The Skimm. It’s a daily newsletter, highlighting major news around the world. The Skimm gives a very general, digestible and brief description of the news.
We also recommend looking into podcasts that do simple rundowns of the news without going into details as well. Podcasts work great because there are no visual aids to disturb you as well.
Taking a nice, deep breath can feel incredibly cathartic, when you are under copious amounts of stress. Take 5 or 10 minutes to sit undisturbed and release all the tension and clutter from your mind. Trust us, you’ll be feeling a little lighter and brighter after.
Bond with Others
Most likely, you are not alone. If there is a particular situation in the news that is upsetting, chances are that some of your friends and family are disturbed as well. Talk about your feelings with someone close to you. It will feel good to know that others are feeling the same way as you. A simple, understanding hug could go a long way too.
A stroll around your block or some time at the park with your dog can help destress and recalibrate you. Research shows that going outside can lower the stress hormone, cortisol, in your body and increase the production of serotonin (the “happy hormone”). Research has also found that vitamin D exposure can help alleviate depressive symptoms as well. Even just five minutes outside can have a mood-boosting effect.
The most obvious, most potent and often, most difficult-to-do solution. Just turn it all off. There is no doubt that turning off the news will make you feel better. However, this can be extremely difficult sometimes. The media sensationalizes the news, often making it feel like an addiction. Also, we can experience a certain amount of guilt or feeling selfish, when we remove ourselves from these distressing stories.
Turn off your CNN alerts, delete your Twitter app and avoid televised news.
Try for 30 minutes, then push for 45 and then try an hour. Slowly build up your tolerance for distancing yourself from the news. It will feel uncomfortable and hard at first; but ultimately it will give you some peace of mind.
Lastly, remember this… for thousands of years, humans did not have this unlimited, unfiltered access to see the tragedies of the world. We may not be evolutionarily equipped to process such high volumes of human suffering. To some degree, our brains may not even be able to assimilate this amount of information in a healthy way.
It is completely natural and okay to utilize any of these methods for your own wellbeing. We repeat: it is completely natural and okay.
If you are experiencing extreme distress, please go here for more resources.