Watching the Capitol building come under attack on January 6th was something I couldn’t look away from, but I also had to know when to turn it off for the sake of my mental health. The images (which I’m choosing not to post here) of this government landmark being overrun by a mob of people was horrifying, and something I never thought I would ever witness. As hour after hour passed with more and more violence happening, I began to wonder, how is this going to end? When is it going to end? That’s when I knew I had to turn off the television. And then I flashed back to the devastating images of 9/11. That was another day where the horrific images were overwhelming.
So what is the best way to cope with news that feels overwhelming, and yet still needs to be heard for the sake of knowing what is happening in our country? I’ve got my own strategies for how to strike a balance between staying on top of the latest news and keeping my anxiety under control.
Set time limits: It’s important to take breaks from the news, especially when a story is an ongoing 24 hour news story. When it becomes hard to break away, I’ll actually set a 30 minute timer on my phone as a reminder to stop watching the news so I don’t get too consumed by all the negativity.
Get news from different sources: Having different points of view is helpful, so I’ll go to different news outlets, listen to different reporters, and read different articles in order to keep the information balanced.
Put events into perspective: With every major event, there’s always something to learn from it. Sometimes that leads to the creation of new laws, or maybe that event created more awareness of some kind of social injustice. And there’s always a good story that happens within the bad news. People who were heroic in their actions, or maybe there were communities that grew closer together, with neighbor helping neighbor.
Serving promotes healing: I’m a person who believes in God, so I always believe that there is a higher spiritual power I can lean on when I feel overwhelmed. For me, God always gives me the perspective that I am not alone, and everything is not about me. So there comes a time when I need to think about how to serve, instead of just being a passive observer of the news. Serving takes me out of myself, and in a strange way, makes me feel like I’m getting some control over the circumstances around me. For example, there’s been a lot of bad news lately about the growing homeless population in my county. So I made a choice to volunteer for a ministry that serves the homeless. Now I feel like I’m part of the solution and that eases my anxiety I previously felt when I was listening to those news reports about the homeless.
So that’s a list of my favorite methods for coping when I feel overwhelmed by a news story. These stories come and go, and what remains will affect us in different ways. So find whatever works to help keep a mental balance while the bad news is happening. Because too much bad news, is not good for our mental health.
If you have any other strategies for protecting your mental health that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you! Just leave a comment below. And thanks for reading!