War, school violence, out-of-control wildfires, and a lingering pandemic. Bad news is all over the TV, newspapers, and the internet. When you’re awake, sometimes it feels like you can’t get away from it all. After a while, it can take a toll on your mental health.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. No, we’re not suggesting you always stick your head in the sand and ignore the world. It’s important to be aware of what’s going on, and it’s OK to feel emotional about some of it. Just don’t give the news the power to weigh you down and change your overall outlook on life.
To protect your mental health when the world around you seems sad and gloomy, give these six strategies a try.
1. Find Support
When you’re faced with one negative story after another, it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed. You may begin to sense a growing level of anxiety and stress. Maybe bad news makes you feel like the world is closing in on you. Or perhaps you’re overwhelmed because you don’t know how to help.
Either way, if that despairing, apprehensive feeling sticks around, consider seeking mental health treatment. Working with a healthcare professional may help relieve some of those symptoms. A doctor can evaluate you and look at your health history to decide if you could benefit from prescription medication.
2. Pay Attention to Your Physical Health
Remember that your mind and body are connected. Your mental stresses can have a direct effect on how your body feels. So when the bad news stacks up around you, take time out to focus on your physical needs. If your body starts to feel better, your mind will follow.
Exercise is a great way to burn off anxiety, stress, and worry. Don’t go overboard — it’s enough to try for around 30 minutes of workout time a day. Take time to enjoy fun activities with family and friends and let yourself concentrate on positive things. Along with increasing your physical activity, be sure to eat healthy foods. Nourishing your body takes care of your mind, too.
3. Get Involved
There will be times when a news story hits closer to home. Maybe it’s on a topic that you’re passionate about like climate change or child hunger. Perhaps it’s happening somewhere important to you. In these cases, you might feel a push to get involved. Listen to your head and heart — doing something proactive is good for your mental health.
Consider donating your time or money (if you can) to help the people directly affected by the news story. If you want to get more involved, think about starting something on your own. For example, launch a clothing drive for families who lost everything in an apartment complex fire. You may be pleasantly surprised that helping others can relieve some of the stress and worry you feel.
4. Enjoy Healthy Distractions
Getting involved is a great way to process some of the stress and negative emotions bad news brings up. Even so, you still need to step away from time to time. Otherwise, you’re constantly dealing with some part of a bad situation. If that’s the case, all your efforts to help will still wear on your mental health.
This is where healthy distractions are important. Sure, it can be relaxing to have a glass of wine (or two) to help wash away anxiety or stress. In the long run, though, turning to alcohol, comfort food, or even retail therapy isn’t helpful.
Instead, focus on healthy activities you enjoy. Take a morning jog or meditate before you start your day. Listen to music and dance while you make dinner. Set aside 20 minutes every night to write in your journal. The point is to choose something you enjoy that will focus your mind on positive, more relaxing things.
5. Control Your News Consumption
Just because the internet and cable news stations are available 24/7 doesn’t mean you have to always pay attention. The news runs on a cycle, so it’s acceptable to turn off the TV or close the web browser. You’ll have another chance to find out what’s going on.
It’s also important to pay attention to any patterns around how the news impacts you. Does getting the news in the morning or evening make you feel worse? If so, avoid exposure during those times. Also, do certain news sources stress you out? If you’re watching or listening to loud, aggressive news hosts, try to find something calmer. Just making those small changes could improve your outlook.
6. Check Out
Even if you want to be “in the know,” it’s not always a good thing. Don’t make it a habit, but sometimes it is a good idea to be an ostrich. Go ahead, stick your head in the sand and ignore what’s happening for a little while. You shouldn’t feel pressured to keep up with everything all the time. Doing so may end up feeling like an avalanche and overwhelm you.
Instead of listening to talk radio in the car, tune into a station that plays your favorite music. Pick an exercise machine at the gym that faces a screen showing a game show. Turn off the social media notifications on your phone for a day or so. Most importantly, don’t apologize for taking a mental health break from the news.
It’s no secret that the world is filled with sad, upsetting news these days. Even if the stories are negative, it’s important to know what’s going on around you. Over time, however, there’s a chance it will start to chip away at your mental health. If you follow these steps, though, you can stay informed and protect your positive mental attitude at the same time.