We are living in a time of high stress worldwide, with access to headlines and news coverage available 24 hours a day. While information is valuable and the internet can be helpful, many of us across the globe are feeling increased anxiety, depressed mood, fear, and general distress related to it.
Mental health suffers when we are in distress. What can we do to monitor our well-being when things feel out of our control?
Remember that the stress response is a NORMAL and HEALTHY trauma response. When we are faced with any type of threat or insecurity, the body responds by feeling unsafe. It is completely normal to feel increased anxiety, uneasiness, and tension when we hear about scary things going on, or the lives of others being threatened. You can practice self compassion by reminding yourself that what you are feeling is normal and there are some things you can control. See below for a list of coping skills to use when feeling overwhelmed by current events.
- Because the body is experiencing this stress response, it is important to ask yourself, “How can I help create a sense of safety in my body?”. Exercising and relaxation exercises such as meditation, deep breathing, or mindfulness can help. Some people also report feeling relaxed and safe when they use a weighted blanket, take a bath or shower, or cuddle with a loved one.
- Make sure you keep a routine. Get regular, good sleep, eat regular, healthy meals, and build in other self care habits when possible. This helps us feel a sense of control in our day and helps the body feel more relaxed. Avoid coping with too much alcohol, unhealthy foods, etc., and they can cloud your thinking, disrupt your sleep cycles, and alter moods.
- Limit news intake. It is important to stay informed – but not too much. We can become addicted to the cycle of checking, reading comments, editorials, and what people are saying on social media. This creates more sense of tension and helplessness, increased irritability and anger, and takes us out of our actual day. Set a schedule for yourself (x amount of time each morning and evening) to check what’s going on, and then leave it. It’s also helpful to limit news consumption before you go to bed, so you can focus on getting good sleep.
- Stay connected! It is human nature to connect with others; we need it. When we isolate, we get more in our heads and have a hard time remembering what is important. Text/call friends, meet up with your community, and find purposeful activities with others. This also goes with connecting to the natural world. Get into plants, trees, take sunlight, and connect with the ground.
- Feel your feelings. They are normal, they tell you what you’re needing, and teach you about yourself. For some, journaling helps be in touch with them. Others talk it out with supports or a therapist, allow themselves to cry, or simply note it to themselves. Whatever you do, try not to push it down and pretend it isn’t there.
- Talk with a professional. A therapist can help you understand what you’re feeling, normalize it, and the two of you can discuss ways to care for yourself and work through/process all the complex thoughts and feelings arising. Having someone to reflect with and guide you can help you see how stress is impacting other areas of your life and work through any barriers you’re having to managing it. A therapist can also help with any higher levels of anxiety or depression that you don’t feel able to manage on your own.
- Abigail Hitchen, PsyD
- If you’re interested in talking with a professional about these topics, click here!