Terrorism. Politics. Crime. It feels like every time you turn on the TV or browse your favorite 24-hour news site, there’s some new tragedy.
It’s enough to make you want to crawl into a cave to avoid it all. More and more these days, it’s becoming harder to stay focused on being positive when everything on the news seems to be doom and gloom.
But that just means that it’s all the more important for your overall well-being to notice how the news negatively impacts your mental and emotional health. If you find yourself being sucked into a vortex of depression by the news, here are some strategies to help you deal.
1. Check Your Emotions Regularly
News stations purposely engage you through emotional content. For them it’s just business. But unfortunately, negative news has the ability to keep you engaged without fully realizing how the information makes you feel.
So observe your news-watching habits. As you view local stations, do you pay attention to the way you connect to the information? Do you ever flip through channels and stop to watch a story that you never expected to be interested in seeing? Some content makes your heart race, holds your attention and keeps you engaged in the story, while other content fills you with anger or sorrow.
Then observe how your body reacts to the news you’re watching. Do you feel your heart racing? Do you feel your stomach twist with nerves or feel the weight of sadness coming over you? These bodily symptoms are connected with negative emotions, and they are called somatic symptoms. They engage your sympathetic nervous system (the part of your body that runs in attack mode) and can mimic anxiety.
So the next time you’re watching the nightly news or scrolling through stories on your go-to news site, check your body and feelings. If the information is making you stressed, turn it off. Get away. Detach. Knowing your limit of information flow will help decrease your connection to unhealthy emotions and keep you in control of your mental health.
2. Change Your Environment
Do you pay attention to where you get your news? Do you watch the morning edition while getting ready for work? Tune in at night while making dinner for your family? Or do you do one last check of Facebook/Twitter before you go to bed?
Negative information has the ability to wrangle its way into your long-term memories and means you’re likely to connect negative emotions to the place where you view the sad stories. Paying attention to where you watch news and limiting the environment can help you stay positive.
Think about it this way: Would you invite someone to sit on your couch if he or she told horrific stories the entire time? Probably not. As human beings, we need a place to detach from the world.
You work hard to create a peaceful living space and to make your house a home. Try to only watch the news on the bus, in your office or some other neutral location. Or bring your computer to a coffee shop and limit your news searching to certain spaces, so you can be free of negativity in your own space.
3. Talk About What You See, and Let It Go
It may seem counterintuitive to talk about the sad or horrifying stories you see on the news, but it can actually help you put them out of your mind. Do you have someone you feel safe talking about tragedy with? It’s important to engage in conversation with people you trust. Getting emotional information out in the open can release it from becoming internalized worry and concern.
There are also many community resources that you can use to discuss concerns and take action. For example, social-media groups and meetup events in the community are geared toward specific audiences. You can find like-minded people in these groups that may help you discuss the world around you.
Always make sure you have someone available to lend you an ear about negative information. If you can, find someone who will help encourage you out of the depression and anxiety that can arise from sad stories.
4. Be Aware of What Others Around You Are Saying
Social media has become a main source of connection in our world. However, it can also be a place of negative content. Do you find yourself cringing when a specific person’s posts pop up? Do your friends post a lot of negative information? If you’re surrounding yourself with people posting stories that are bringing you down, it may feel almost impossible to find positivity in life.
Sometimes the best remedy is disconnecting from social media. Don’t feel bad for unfollowing pessimistic people. Your social network, via online or in person, has to be a source of encouragement. Find stories that make you feel good. Most news sources have positive highlight stories in certain sections of their websites. Search for hero stories and you’ll find yourself in a better place emotionally.
5. Go Do Something to Change Your Tune
One of the biggest problem with disheartening news stories is that most of the time it seems like there’s nothing one person can do to change it. And that can make you feel like things are out of your control.
The best way to combat internal sadness is to do something good in your community. Turn off the television, get online and find an organization that compels you to get involved. Buy a meal for someone in need. Volunteer at a place that could use your help.
Behavioral activation increases your feelings of hope. And hopelessness is directly linked to depression. If you’re able to increase your ability to change something small in your environment, you will increase feelings of hopefulness. The world needs you to do great things. Go volunteer with your family or friends and get moving!
Now It’s Up to You!
The world we live in is full of sadness and tragedy, but there’s also a lot of joy. Don’t let the darkness bring you down.
Know when to disengage from the news. Take control of where you allow sad information to seep into your life. Have a conversation about your feelings connected to content. Associate with emotionally healthy people. And do great things. You’re capable of making an impact.