anndouglas: How to Avoid Being Psychologically Destroyed by Your Newsfeed
This past week has been brutal, in terms of what has been coming across my
newsfeed. And 2016 wasn't exactly a picnic either. So lately I've been
thinking a lot about the mental health impact of a steady avalanche of
Really Bad News. Many of us (myself included) deal with mental health
challenges on a daily basis and being fed a steady diet of devastating
world events only serves to make that harder. So I've decided to share a
few strategies I'm using to avoid being completely crushed by my newsfeed
right now. (I'm writing this post as much for myself as for anyone else.
But I'm also hoping that this post will be helpful to some other sensitive
soul who is having an extra tough time right now.)
Here's my best advice....
Recognize that there's a difference between being immersed and being
Sure, you want to be aware of what's happening in the world, but that
doesn't mean that you have to be plugged into your Twitter or Facebook feed
24/7. Give yourself permission to take breaks. And aim for a balanced media
diet. Don't just focus on the really bad news. Gravitate toward the good,
Stick to your usual routines as much as possible
We humans are creatures of habit and we find comfort in the familiar. And
make sure that you're giving your body what it needs to function at its
best: healthy food, regular physical activity, time for fun, and adequate
sleep. (I don't know about you, but I find that sleep is the glue that
holds everything else together. I've learned to recognize it for what it
is: a necessity, not a luxury.)
Look for opportunities to take action
It doesn't have to be something huge. Frankly, it will feel a whole lot
less overwhelming if it's not. But by carrying through on sort of positive
action, however small (writing a letter, making a donation, attending a
face-to-face get-together in your town), you'll be engaging the
rational-logical part of your brain. And that will help to put the brakes
on what can otherwise quickly escalate into paralyzing feelings of anxiety
and sadness. Feeling powerless fuels anxiety; taking action brings it
Allow yourself to feel all the feelings
Allow painful emotions to flow through you as opposed to avoiding them
(which suppresses positive as well as negative emotions, leaving you
feeling emotionally "flat") or dwelling on them (which ties up cognitive
resources, leaving you less equipped to solve problems or connect with
other people). Remind yourself that feelings come and feelings go -- and
you are not your feelings.
Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you
believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and
take responsibility for making it so.
— Noam Chomsky Maintain your sense of optimism
Focus on what you can control as opposed to fixating on what you can't.
You'll find it easier to make this mental mindshift if you make a conscious
effort to boost your level of positive emotion by doing things you enjoy
and spending time with people you love. Positive emotions leave the door
open to possibility while negative emotions slam the door shut. You want to
keep the door open right now.
Reach out -- don't crumble inward
Connect with other caring citizens who share your concern about what's
happening in our country and our world. Talk to other people you know who
may be going through an especially difficult time right now -- especially
members of vulnerable or marginalized communities. Let them know that you
will be there to support them and that you care. Smile at strangers.
(Assume their good intentions unless proven otherwise.) Look for
opportunities to build bridges, not walls. Finally, reach out for other
types of support if you feel like you're really struggling. Self-care isn't
selfish; it's self-preservation. You need to take extra good care of
yourself right now.
Talk to your children
Address their fears and spark their compassion. Do everything in your power
to nurture their caring and to encourage them to dream of a better world.
Then support those brave dreamers. They offer the best path forward for our
deeply troubled world.
January 31, 2017
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