Feeling Unsettled by Unsettling World Events
Four Steps to Reduce Stress
It’s easy to feel unsettled when we hear unsettling news on television or social media, particularly when several events happen at once. The combination of Kobe Bryant’s death, the fires in Australia, and the spread of the Corona virus, can trigger an escalation of anxiety or depression for those already in a fragile state. It’s normal to experience an emotional reaction to events such as these but we don’t want them to overwhelm us. We can prevent stories in the media from hitting us hard emotionally by taking four simple steps.
Don’t personalize: The stories of the world are not your stories. Keep them at a distance and recognize they are not happening to you. They are sad, tragic, and concerning but they are not impacting your life directly.
Turn it off: The stories are compelling and the 24-hour news cycle exists for our consumption but that doesn’t mean we have to consume it all the time. Take a break. Don’t watch. Focus on living your life instead.
Don’t dwell: Even if we take a break from watching media it doesn’t mean the stories won’t exist in our mind. We can choose to stop watching the stories in our imagination similar to turning off a horror movie on television. Like a garden that grows the more we tend to it, the more we focus on our thoughts the more they grow. Each time an unwanted thought pops up, say to yourself, “not going there” and then turn your attention elsewhere. If you tend to dwell in bed, get out of bed before your mind goes to that dark, scary place.
Refuse to catastrophize: It’s easy for the mind to create worst case scenarios particularly when the news focuses on the worst. Remember, the news has to grab our attention for viewership. If we look back over the last several decades, we can identify many scary predictions that did not escalate to catastrophic proportion: Mass starvation in the late 60s. Killer bees from South America in the early 80s. Y2K in 2000. SARS in 2003. Led paint on toys from China in 2007. Mayan calendar predicting global catastrophe in December 2012. And brain cancer from cell phones. Don’t amplify the stories. Turn down the volume.
Ken Goodman, LCSW