If you’re anything like me, you might have been avoiding the news recently. But it’s becoming more and more unavoidable, with the sad news about affairs in the Ukraine sweeping the headlines, Instagram feeds, and conversations. If you’re feeling worried and stressed about the news again, we’ve got some tips to help you through.
Normally, avoiding the news, or too much of it at least, would be a good place to start in protecting your mental health. But if you think back to the beginning of the pandemic and remember how much the media was focused on terrifying statistics, images and panic-inducing stay-at-home orders - you’ll also remember it became really quite difficult to just avoid it.
It might sound quite ignorant too, privileged even, to just ignore what is going on in the rest of the world - and it is to be honest. But sometimes this kind of ignorance is necessary to protect yourself against the impact of harrowing news. However, we can’t control the broadcasting, the reposting or sharing on social media, the conversations at the dinner table or the pub. It’s not easy to shelter ourselves from this distressing news.
"Sometimes the best thing we can do is accept the circumstances so we’re not adding further pressure or stress to them."
Practising compassion during uncertain times
Before we get to some tangible tips, I want to remind you to be compassionate right now. That means allowing ourselves the space to have the feelings we are having, removing the pressure to be ok, and try to stop stressing about feeling stressed.
But here’s why: Our anxiety and stress thrive in uncertainty - you likely remember from the early pandemic days, maybe it never went away. So it’s normal to be feeling anxious, worried, scared, and saddened by the news right now. Don’t beat yourself up for finding this difficult to digest or even hear. Take some time to slow down, we might be busy with life again, but make time to sit with your feelings and give yourself a chance to process them - even if it’s crying under the duvet for 20 minutes before the next Zoom meeting.
When our stress and anxiety are perking up, other things are going to go out the window - like good sleep, emotional regulation and focus. If we worry about these things, we’re only going to find it harder to cope. Again, if you’re like me, the prospect of not having a good sleep when we’ve got work or parenting or socialising to do the next day is a real fear. But more fear only makes sleeping, coping and thinking well more difficult. We need to accept that things are difficult right now, accept that it might be harder to fall asleep right now, that we might be more volatile or reactive than usual, and that concentrating may be a struggle. Sometimes the best thing we can do is accept the circumstances so we’re not adding further pressure or stress to them.
“Basically if we are stressed, we end up in flight or fight mode, which stops us feeling sleepy. The issue is this is a threat we can do nothing about. I would avoid the news before bed, so the conflict is not at the forefront of your mind as you try to drift off.” - advice from The Sleep Geek
5 ways to cope with the news right now:
1. Limit your intake of news
We can’t avoid the news all the time, but constantly seeing it is going to negatively impact us because it is scary right now. Limit your intake to 5 or 10 mins at a time, scan headlines for information rather than full articles, get bitesize nuggets from credible sources.
2. Read rather than watch
Whether you’re an avid reader or would rather not, right now reading is going to be a more gentle way to stay tuned in than watching it. News on the TV has more information for us to take in, sound effects, body language of newsreaders, video footage, tone of voices. This additional stimulus adds to our fears, often subconsciously, and takes away some of our control that we can regain by reading it for ourselves.
3. Be conscious on social media
We can’t control what other people are posting or sharing, and there’s a vast amount of information out there. When you’re having a scroll, be aware of what’s coming up on your feeds, choose to skip past things that worry or stress you out, or you could unfollow or mute some accounts for a while.
4. Connect with your world
The world is feeling scary, but our individual worlds are what we make of them. We decide what to do with our time and whether it’s a nice place to be. Whether it’s connecting with your friends and family, yourself or coping strategies that help you feel calmer. Take some time to help you to feel safe and be in the moment.
5. Remember uncertainty is going to send your anxiety soaring
When you catch yourself in a spin of stress or worry, remind yourself that this is normal - despite being highly uncomfortable. We’re all going to be feeling this to a degree, so you’re not alone and we don’t need to try to get rid of these feelings. It’s absolutely ok to not feel ok!
Feelings from a therapist: this is one of those situations where I wish I had something really tangible to offer, that feels like we could actually make some change and feel better or even relieve the situation. But we can’t control everything that happens and we can’t wave magic wands to make everything better. This isn’t going to be easy, take things slow and be kind to yourself and others. We’re all feeling scared but it means we’re not alone.