Current events in the news really affect many of us. Whether it’s recent events in the Middle East, a mass shooting in the USA, the endless political conflicts at home, or the seemingly constant violence and depressing news in our own hometowns. It’s hard not to be affected by the news we see on TV and online. We are barraged with constant negative images and shiny, well-dressed, talking heads that seemingly revel in the negativity of the news story they are delivering.
Or maybe it’s the fire engine red “CNN BREAKING NEWS ALERT” that seems likes it’s on the screen more than its off nowadays. Regardless, the very nature of the “it bleeds it leads” style of newscasting means we are constantly on alert and aware of how horrible we humans can treat each other. This means that given the recent frightening and horrible events in Nice or Turkey — maybe you’re feeling upset, or sad; maybe angry or scared, or any combination of emotions that are uncomfortable and stressful. Constantly feeling those kinds of stressful emotions is unhealthy and really quite bad for us — opening us up to heart disease, mental health problems, and other stress-related maladies.
But what can we do to combat the negative images and stories that drag us down and may even make us feel horrible?
Breathe and do positive things!
Remember to keep breathing and stay in the moment. Don’t allow your mind to run amuck with negative and scary thoughts that increase your “stressey” anxiety feelings. Try to quiet the chatter in your mind. Try relaxation strategies that have worked for you in the past or try some new ones like these examples.
- Keep the deep belly-breathing happening. Count to four or five as you breathe in and to four or five on the breath out. Pay attention to your breath. Breathe long and deep from your very center, filling and expanding your lungs and belly. Pay particular attention to how your breathing feels as it moves throughout your body.
- Meditate. Find a guided meditation online like these ones online from UCLA Health:
- Get some physical exercise, even just going for a walk or for a quick workout at the gym will calm your mind. Try something new, a fitness class maybe? Try Tai Chi, running, cycling, dancing, practice yoga or something else to get the breath flowing and the blood moving.
- Listen to some calming or even positive, energetic music. Dance if you want to and sing along even if the person in the car beside you looks at you weird.
- Try an adult colouring book, or drawing or doodling.
- Write in a journal, where you can write down your thoughts, feelings ideas, and thoughts.
- Do a crossword, Sudoku or a jigsaw puzzle.
Just try something to occupy and relax your mind and body for fifteen, twenty or even thirty minutes.
Put the news in perspective
Because of globalization our vast world has now become a small one. So we see every bad thing that happens all over the world now, in technicolor. So by seeing all of the bad news from all over the world, all of the time, we can start to “overgeneralize” and even exaggerate that the world is a worse place than it really is.
It was a horrible thing that just happened, no doubt about it. But also realize that terrible things happen in our world… they just do… the reality is that they always have, and likely always will. We can hope for the world to be a better place… but we can’t expect it to happen on our timeline.
In other words, we can’t have unrealistic expectations about the bigger world based on just our expectations and what “should be”. When it comes to feeling stress and anxiety about what we see in media, we have to test our reality and look at if our feelings and emotions are being unnecessarily fanned by the media flames. We have to realize the media itself is now designed and manufactured to make us feel strong emotions, so we stay tuned in. Especially notice if you start to “globalize” or “exaggerate” and begin to feel that the world is a horrible place that is always getting worse and worse.
The reality is that overall, the world is actually getting better, and not worse. There is actually less violence, less war, less suffering and less strife now than ever before.
Here are some links to some great articles about just that.
Be aware of how the news affects you. How does watching the news regularly make you feel? The reality is that seeing traumatic things on the news activates our own negative feelings and emotions — and this happens most especially if we have serious traumas of any kind in our past. Seeing traumatic things in the media can activate parts of our brains and guide it to access memories of any past trauma that we may have experienced.
The limbic area of our brain, which includes the amygdala & hippocampus “controls” access to emotional and traumatic memories. The feelings and emotions that are part of our emotional history. Seeing a horrible trauma like what happened in France can make us feel like the traumas from our past are revived and from this process, we can feel the return of strong physical and emotional symptoms. For certain people with a significant history of trauma, watching a horrific news story can affect them emotionally for days. For some people who are sensitive, they may not even have a history of trauma and they may be affected this way!
Note: If this activation of old traumas and negative feelings is happening to you on a regular basis? Maybe consider getting some professional help from a Psychologist or other qualified therapist to find ways that you can put old traumas “to bed”.
And perhaps most important of all. Just because there is news on, and a “RED ALERT” doesn’t mean we have to watch all of it, in detail over and over again through the news cycle. Unplug, turn it off, go outside, read a book, get romantic with your partner, go out with friends, go to a park, see a movie. Do something that gets you away from the news.
I’m not saying we should ignore the bad things that happen on the news and in our world — we need to be aware of injustices and unfairness, and events that hurt other human beings. We need to feel and have empathy for them — however, we shouldn’t let following a news story from the other side of the world become excessive or even obsessive to the point where it damages us emotionally and causes us undue unhealthy stress.
Take a minute and be aware of how the media affects you personally and maybe adjust your exposure accordingly?