Ways to Practice Self Care When News and Social Media Make You Feel Down

News on television, in print, and online has always had frightening and disturbing content, but many can agree that this fall has seemed particularly worse. With so much technology, we are constantly bombarded with headlines about war, shootings, horror stories of betrayal in Facebook clickbait articles, and constant updates about the latest often offensive and dangerous things President Trump is doing. In recent weeks, thousands of people across the country and around the world have been following updates on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination and the allegations of sexual assault that have been made against him, especially the one made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. This story has created both worries about the moral values of the United States and a dialogue, through  many Facebook debates, about what qualifies as sexual assault, the timeline of reporting abuse, and what consent looks like. While it is important to follow stories like this that are influential to United States government, and the discussion this story is creating is a valid and essential one, being constantly exposed to this and stories similar to it can be emotionally challenging for everyone, especially those who are survivors of sexual assault and/or struggle with mental illness.

Although it is important to keep up-to-date on issues and research what is going on in your country’s politics, it is also extremely important to prioritize your mental health and find ways to recharge when you feel like being on social media or watching the news is having an unhealthy impact on you. The only way you can take a stance on current events and take steps to help create the kind of world you want to be in is if you practice balance and rest so that you can be your best self. You do not have to sacrifice your well-being to be supportive of survivors, an informed member of society, or to fulfill a moral obligation to stay in the loop that having all media at our fingertips has caused us to have. Here are 6 ways to take care of yourself when news and social media are lowering your mood.

1. Write it Out!

If you are watching the news, reading a magazine or newspaper, or scrolling through social media and start to feel anxious or upset, record in a journal or on a piece of paper how you feel about what you read, what part of it triggered these feelings, and why you think that happened. Is the thing that you read similar to something that happened to you or someone you know? Is the situation something that has been happening a lot in the news? Is the writing about something you have always worried would happen to you? Do the people in the story remind you of yourself demographically, personality wise, or in any other way? Try to also record what your reactions are when you start to have these feelings. Do you immediately close the story or start looking up similar ones? Do you connect the story to your life to try to see the probability of it happening to you? Do you worry that the situation you are reading about could happen to you even if it’s next to impossible? Do you start to look at the world as a bad place overall? Are there physical symptoms that accompany these feelings- racing heart, sweating, or dizziness?  Keeping track of these feelings not only gives you an outlet and helps you organize your racing thoughts, it also can help you see patterns between your exposure to the news and your mental well being, which can help you begin to find a balance between keeping in the know and keeping yourself in a healthy place.

2. Talk to Loved Ones

Sometimes troubling headlines can make you feel alone, scared, or burdened, and sometimes you may feel like you are the only person who takes things happening around you so to heart. Talking to a friend, family member, mentor, or a favorite professor is a great way to get your feelings out into the open with someone you care about that has your best interests at heart. If news stories cause you anxiety, these people can help you put some worries to rest and help you see things outside of the perspective of fear alone. If you are a survivor of something traumatic, these people can validate your feelings about your hurtful experiences, be shoulders to cry on, and help connect you with help. If you are feeling hopeless about the state of the world, these important figures in your life can show you that there is good around you and that someone is there for you. One of the best parts of reaching out to other people is that a lot of times you will find out that other people are feeling the same way as you, that your emotions are normal, and you are not alone in struggling with these hard feelings.

Photo courtesy of Brit+Co

3. Take a Break from Social Media

If you notice that you start to feel unhappy and overwhelmed while scrolling through social media specifically, keep in mind that you are allowed to take a step away from it. Whether you challenge yourself to only go on social media a couple times a day, delete the application off of your phone for a certain amount of time, or decide a specific platform is doing more harm than good for you and delete your account altogether, taking some time away from social media can have a lot of good benefits that extend beyond just avoiding negative posts and news. It can also help you be more productive (not having social media around eliminates one of your biggest procrastination sources) and be more present in your daily life. Try to be aware, whether by recording your feelings or just making a mental note on how you feel each day, of any positive changes in your mood that you experience if you try to decrease or eliminate your use of social media.

4. Look for the Good

Audience-gripping news stories, Facebook clickbait, negative finsta posts, and constant discussions of current events in your classes can make the world look like a terrible and hopeless place sometimes. There is no denying that there are terrible things going on and that changes need to be made to many systems throughout the world, but when you feel like you’re drowning in negativity see it as a challenge to take extra time to look for the good around you. If Facebook rants are upsetting you but you still want to be active on your account, look through your favorite meme or baby animal accounts and try to avoid reading posts or article links about negative things for awhile. If you go to bed every night full of worry or sadness or feeling overwhelmed by all of the bad things you see whenever you unlock your phone, try keeping a gratitude jar or a journal where you write about the good things going on in your life and can reread them when you are feeling down. Even when you are watching Netflix or listening to music, if you are feeling upset consider picking light and upbeat TV shows, movies, or songs that can put you in a happier mindset. You can also try to hide certain ads and posts that you find are negative or irrelevant to you on many social media platforms, which can help with the feeling of seeing only bad news on your feed. Of course you can’t avoid every bad thing around you and it is not healthy to do so, but it is perfectly healthy to eliminate unnecessary negativity and to opt for more positive content instead. Practicing gratitude in you daily life is a great habit to develop whether you’re feeling happy or unhappy.

5. Do Not be Afraid to Talk to a Mental Health Professional

If your negative feelings from news stories and social media persist, you want tools to battle your emotions from all of this upsetting content, or these feelings begin to get in the way of you having a productive or happy day, it is always a good idea to look into talking to a counselor and receiving professional help. Although you may think that these feelings are not a big deal or do not fit into the box of a specific mental illness, your feelings are valid and it is always good to have someone with an education on emotions to be a sounding board for you or a resource for tips to address these feelings. Even just saying your feelings out loud rather than just letting them float around in your head may make you feel significantly better. Fortunately in many colleges there are counseling centers with entire staffs of people equipped to help you process and overcome your thoughts and feelings and it is often a free or much less expensive option compared to getting counseling outside of school.

6. Do Relaxing Activities that You Enjoy

Sometimes one of the best and quickest ways to take your mind off of negativity and put yourself in a better mood is to do something that you love. It can be exercising, painting, playing an instrument, you name it! Not only does this allow your mind to focus on something other than the sadness, anxiety, and outrage you feel about what is going on, it also connects you with something you love and helps you see the good that is in the world. It also allows you to relax and do something that you are passionate about and if it involves something you are talented in, it gives you something to have pride in.

The world can be a scary place and it is often hard to separate yourself from everything you hear about what is going on in our society and in politics and to form a barrier between you and all of the negative news around you. I hope that these tips can be a starting place to help recharge after being exposed to draining information and a way to reframe your perspective so that you focus on the good going on around you also.