In September, two black men were murdered by police. One of them, Keith Scott, was killed two hours from my home. Although news like this isn't uncommon, it is distressing, scary and hard to process.
It seems like every time you turn on the TV or log onto Twitter, there is more bad news. Someone else has been shot, terrorists are destroying a country and politicians are quarreling instead of solving problems. The news blasts images of the dead and the dying and the stories of the marginalized, not always to inform but to produce more views - suffering sells.
Sometimes, this can have a positive effect. Such news can shock individuals and push them to take action. It can make them advocates for a better world. In other cases, though, the news can have a negative effect. It can cause one to become overwhelmed or maybe worse yet, indifferent.
Shani Thornton, a child life specialist acknowledges the effect seeing traumatic events on the news often has on children. Being exposed to the world’s suffering, either on TV or on the internet, is stressful and can cause children to become anxious and uncertain about their own safety. The same can prove to be true for adolescents and adults, too.
Clearly, this constant bombardment of bad news is not healthy, so what can you do to protect yourself?
1. Turn off the computer.
First of all, turn off the TV or the computer for as long as you see fit. That could be for an hour, a day or even a week or more.
2. Care for yourself first.
Then you need to get rid of any guilt you have for separating yourself from the news that is causing you stress. Yes, it is important to be aware of current events, especially when there are steps you can take to better them, but you also have a responsibility to take care of yourself. If you’re not in a good, safe place mentally, you won’t be able to help anyone else regardless of how dire the situation.
3. Engage in relaxing activities.
Once you've distanced yourself from the news that unsettled you, you need to do things that will help you relax. This could be listening to calming music, reading your favorite book, taking a hot shower or drinking tea.
4. Talk it out with someone you trust.
Sometimes it helps to talk it out, too. You can call someone you trust or invite them for coffee and discuss what you heard or saw that made you feel overwhelmed and the reasons why it made you feel that way. This will help you (and your friend) process things in a non-threatening way. It may even help you find real life solutions to the issues that move you.
5. Return to the world again.
Once you feel you've adequately recovered or processed what you've seen and heard, you can turn on the TV or computer once more. Sometimes this will happen quickly and other times it won't, and you may need another break soon but that's okay.
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to cope. You should do whatever you need to to take care of yourself because you are just as important as the people you see hurting on TV.
Lead Image Credit: Jay Wennington via Unsplash