Times are changing. Society is changing. Politics is changing. The world around us is changing. Regardless of your stance on certain issues, many people have recently been affected by the news and current domestic and international events. The world’s affairs seem to have many people experiencing stress, anxiety, anger, and hopelessness. These feelings are reasonable, as it is common to experience such emotions following any traumatic or significant event. However, it is important to know there are many ways to manage these uncomfortable feelings. So what does one do to regulate their exposure to this type of information, and to overcome uncomfortable and distressing fear and anxiety?
Do you receive alerts each time your news source releases the latest headline or article? Being constantly bombarded with news throughout the day is not good for anyone. Unless your job is working for a news source or requires you to stay constantly aware of the latest information, this over-exposure leads to too much attention being given to current events. When you are receiving updates throughout the day, you are constantly being affected by everything that happens. Each time you read an alert, or click to open the article, you are exposing yourself to content that can lead to negative thinking and negative emotions. Doing this throughout the day, and all day, can lead to feeling overwhelmed and may even distract you from other more timely responsibilities and priorities (your job, your relationships, exercise, healthy eating, going to bed on-time, etc.).
There are multiple solutions to this:
- Turn off the alerts altogether, or turn them off for a defined period of time. By defining a period of time that you will not be bombarded by news alerts, you are allowing yourself a mental and emotional break from devastating and conflictual events. Even if this is just for a day or two, or two days per week, this reduces the constant influx of information.
- If it is important to you to remain aware of current events, set aside time only once or twice per day to read the latest news. This could be in the morning when you drink your coffee, during your lunch break, or in the evening after dinner.
- Try not to read the news before going to bed. This can lead to difficulty falling asleep, either due to worry about what you’ve just read or getting into the recently increasing trend of Facebook “comment wars.” Either way, it keeps you up.
TALK ABOUT IT
Holding in your thoughts and how you are feeling never works.
It is always better to address what you are thinking and feeling. The best way to do this is by talking with others. You may find relief in talking to family, friends, or even complete strangers. It is helpful when you find people who relate to what you are thinking and feeling, as this fosters the most open and productive dialogue.
CONNECT WITH OTHERS
You may be feeling alone in your reactions. However, it is more likely that you are not alone. Related to the preceding point, connecting with others who are experiencing similar reactions helps to normalize what you are feeling and brings a sense of community. This can turn your hopelessness into hope and increase your overall sense of positivity.
Despite the above strategies to manage exposure and temper emotions, the reality is there has been a recent significant (and constant) influx of news about devastating world events and shocking political outcomes. Ignoring reality, just like trying to ignore and suppress emotions, does not actually change it. In these times, it is crucial that you take care of yourself. Good self-care practices lead to being better able to mentally and emotionally manage reactions to current events.
- Ensure that you are getting adequate sleep each night. If needed, try some mindfulness, meditation, or relaxation exercises to distract yourself from thoughts and fall asleep more easily. Also make sure to you are getting enough sleep.
- Ensure that you are eating enough, and making healthy eating choices, in order to sustain your energy levels. Taking in enough food is also related to being able to reason and think clearly. It is important that you don’t neglect your healthy eating habits by forgetting to eat or giving in to your reduced appetite, which may be in reaction to your mood. Likewise, it is important that you are not over-eating as a form of coping with how you feel.
- Continue your exercise routine, or start a new one. Exercise is proven to have a direct and positive impact on your reasoning ability and mood. Don’t let emotions about current events interfere with your current exercise routine. If you haven’t been exercising, it is a good time to start. Even going for a brisk walk three days per week is beneficial for your mental and emotional health.
- Stick to your schedule. Changes in stress often results in changes in schedules, and changes in schedules often results in stress. Try to go to sleep and wake at the same, eat meals when you normally do, and engage in your activities as usual (e.g., exercise, meditation, etc.).
- Take time for relaxation. What you find relaxing may be different from what your spouse or best friend finds relaxing. Perhaps your relaxation is reading a book, going for a walk, listening to music, watching a good movie, playing with your dog, going shopping, getting a massage, etc. Whatever it is, do it!
SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
Even when we try our best to manage stress and other emotions on our own, sometimes we just need to talk to a professional. Although the tips provided above can help you get past feelings of anxiety, they may not work for everyone. This is why it is important to know that there are other avenues you can take to feeling better again. The difference between talking with a professional versus a friend or family member is that your psychologist is an objective, neutral person. They are not there to debate with you over political issues or tell you “you shouldn’t feel that way.” For the most part, unless it would do you a disservice, they are there to support you, express understanding for how you feel, and help you to manage how you are feeling by teaching you practical strategies.