How to Cope When the World Seems Completely Terrible
Does scrolling your news feed these days leave you with an anxious pit in your stomach? These tactics will help.
Hearing the news about the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in the U.K. that killed 22 people and wounded scores more—many of them young girls—probably left you with a pit in your stomach. Depression, stress, and anxiety likely followed.
That reaction is certainly normal, particularly in a 24/7 news cycle that consistently delivers tragedies from around the world every day directly to you through your phone or laptop. It can feel like you’re constantly scrolling one depressing headline after the next—and for many people, that starts to become overwhelming and affects them personally.
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“The fact that we’re a social media connected world gives the illusion that everything terrible is happening more frequently,” says Health contributing psychology editor, Gail Saltz, MD. And it’s this interconnectedness that makes Manchester—and other tragic global events—feel like they’re happening right next door, she says.
So how can you fight that feeling of helplessness and doom you get when you look at your news feed? Give these strategies a try—they’ll help ease the emotional strife and give you a healthy perspective when it feels like the world is in a sad place.
Take a few minutes to relax
Watching a disturbing news clip or seeing a distressing headline can kick anxiety—and that prompts a physiological reaction, like a racing heart or shallow breathing. The opposite is true, too. “Calming your body will calm your mind,” says Saltz, so you don’t feel so panicked and overwhelmed. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing is very effective, and 30 minutes of heart-pumping exercise will also do the trick.
Let your friends distract you
You can always turn to a trusted pal and express your fears and concerns to her. But your closest friends can also be an invaluable source of distraction. Take advantage of this by talking to them about things that make you smile. More importantly, don’t hang with friends who tend to pump tragedies up into hysteria, advises Dr. Saltz.
Dial back your news consumption
It’s easy to get caught up in the constant stream of news updates or watching upsetting footage. So set clear boundaries for consuming news, advises family therapist Paul L. Hokemeyer, Ph.D. For example, commit to looking at the news once in the morning and once in the evening. “It will be difficult at first, but easier over time,” he says. Don’t be afraid to turn on mindless TV instead. You need The Bachelorette more than ever now.
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Continue to participate in life
It’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to events like the Manchester bombing and promise yourself that you’ll avoid certain situations like sporting events, concerts, or festivals. But avoidance is the worst tactic, says Saltz. “Your mind is a feedback loop. When you avoid things because of anxiety, you’ll initially feel better. That positive reinforcement prompts a vicious cycle, which, over time, makes you shrink your world,” she explains. Live life as you did before, and your anxiety will dissipate.
“The best thing we can do to help us deal with the terrible news that infects our world and psyche is to get into action,” says Hokemeyer. He encourages everyone to do one thing positive—however small—each day. Maybe that’s making an extra effort to be warm and kind as you go through your day, or spending time with people in need. “These may seem like small acts, but when compounded across millions of people, they are powerful,” he says. In other words, you can make a difference.