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Mental Health

How to Cope With the Constant Stress of Current Events

So…you’re one of many who find the news emotionally draining. There’s no doubt that it’s difficult to pay attention to the news lately, just as it’s mentally-taxing to be emotionally-invested in the exhausting world around us.  With school shootings, police brutality, widespread violence against women, an increasingly fascist government, the world’s climate changing, more and more deadly storms and disasters every year, sexual predators getting elected to some of the most powerful positions in our country, and the entirety of the current presidency, when are we supposed to breathe? Where’s the good news?

The easy answer to a stress-free life has, unfortunately,  been to ignore the things we can afford to ignore, and appreciate the good things we do see in the world. This is an incomplete solution, as there are many things we as individuals personally could ignore that affect many other people’s lives. For example, if I’d tried, I might have been able to disregard and brush off the recent shooting that happened at my school, but women on campus certainly couldn’t do the same, as it was specifically a shooting involving stalking and toxic masculinity, coupled with campus police ignoring the complaints of a woman who knew her life was in danger. This is not someone the women attending college around me could easily overlook, even if they wanted to. It’s one of countless events that instills fear in people walking through campus at night, and contributes to women’s fear of rejecting men. The point is, even though it might be better for personal mental health, it would be irresponsible and callous to simply compartmentalize and ignore what happened. And for someone empathetic, like me, it wouldn’t even be possible in the first place.

So if becoming detached from it all isn’t the answer, what is? I wish I had a straightforward and perfect solution, but if there is one, I certainly haven’t found it. All we can really do is support each other, and I think that’s important. If we retreat into solitude, we’ll all lose our battles, especially those against huge unjust governing bodies.  We need to support others when we can, and in concrete ways, not just offering help. Posting something online is nice, but that alone doesn’t help. Show solidarity by showing up to protests and keeping an eye on the people around you. Make sure to intervene when you could help keep someone safe (if you feel safe doing so). Don’t just say you respect women in a post online, call out the men around you who abuse and mistreat women, and use your authority to make them stop. We need an environment where we can trust the people around us and they can trust us as well.

Now, this certainly doesn’t reduce the stress on us, especially while that environment doesn’t exist. But it’s a good first step; if everyone in the world became more sensitive and empathetic, we could come close to that environment. Maybe that’s too idealistic, but it’s one thing we can do.

As for the stress itself, there are a few things we can do. Take the time to breathe and take care of yourself without looking at the news for a while. Talk to people about what’s happening and how you feel about it and why. Give yourself a break; you’re not a bad person for not knowing all the horrible things occurring around the world every day. Just like you’re not a bad person for not recycling every single thing you can, or not buying only environmentally-friendly products. Even if everyone changed and became perfectly environmentally friendly, it would barely change anything, because 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global greenhouse gas emission. Individual virtue, no matter how strong, isn’t going to fix everything. So, individual guilt isn’t helpful either.

It’s important that we take care of ourselves and the people around us, at least when we’re capable. It’s also important to know your limits; you’re not going to be able to help anyone if you don’t take any time to care for yourself and let someone else take care of you. You’re also not going to be happy if you spend all your energy trying to help or care for someone who isn’t helping you. It’s okay to cut people off if they’re weighing you down; you don’t need a reason. At the end of the day, you’ll help more people by letting yourself grow and learn than by desperately trying to give everything to someone who isn’t reciprocating.

We can also make more effort to seek out positivity and create positivity around us. Interact with others and send your friends pictures of cute animals and uplifting memes. Even things that seem silly can be very helpful.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time: “You all have a bit of ‘I want to save the world’ in you, that’s why you’re here, in college. I want you to know that it’s okay if you only save one person, and its okay if that person is you.” – Unknown

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Jacob Westwood is a senior at the University of Utah, who loves animals, the outdoors, and hands-on work.
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