During the past couple of years, it seems as though we have been bombarded with images of suffering and frightening statistics more than ever. Although it is important to keep informed, it is equally as important to look after your mental health.
Keeping up to date and educated about current events is extremely important; despite the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness we often feel about global tragedies, individuals can somewhat make a difference. For example, there are ways to help Ukraine during the current invasion such as donating money or essential supplies to charities such as Save the Children and the Red Cross.
Although many of us in the UK are in positions of privilege and can use this to help to some extent, individuals still have very little control over what is happening, and this can cause feelings of anxiety and helplessness. Constantly checking the news and reading about tragic events can also prove counterproductive as it can be overwhelming and negatively impact mental health, with more and more studies coming out that show it can increase depression and anxiety.
This is particularly relevant after multiple lockdowns during the pandemic; coronavirus was the only thing on the news and we were told the statistics of hospitalisations and deaths every day. Whilst, again, it was important to be educated about lockdown rules, mask-wearing and vaccines, being overloaded with this information was most likely harmful in a situation where mental health was already being affected by isolation.
Deleting news apps or taking a break from social media, even just temporarily, may help to clear your mind and reduce stress
It’s completely normal when confronted with these images and tragic stories on a daily basis to feel scared or anxious. So what can we do?
Firstly, you should assess your state of mind; if you’re going through a particularly stressful time or have personal or mental health problems or even simply know you are prone to feeling anxious from the news, self-care should be your priority. Deleting news apps or taking a break from social media, even just temporarily, may help you clear your mind and reduce stress.
If you want to avoid feeling anxious but still want to keep informed, it may be better to search elsewhere for information other than sensationalist news outlets. For example, discussing it with friends who can condense the information for you or finding informative video essays on YouTube -such as Illustrate to Educate’s video- might be a better alternative.
It can be useful to acknowledge these feelings and perhaps talk to other people about it as it may give you perspective
Ultimately, any source whose main priority is to inform and educate rather than get views or shock its audience will most likely be better for your mental health. Approaching issues like this with curiosity and from a research perspective can allow you to gain a better understanding of the situation whilst remaining level- headed. This is a more practical approach in a time where everyone is expected to know what’s going on instead of completely cutting off the news- although, as mentioned before, this depends on your current mental state.
It is also important to let yourself feel sad or frustrated at situations like Ukraine’s. These feelings are completely justified as horrible things are happening to people and it brings a sense of uncertainty. It can be useful to acknowledge these feelings and perhaps talk to other people about it as it may give you perspective or simply be cathartic to talk about how you’re feeling, and you may find they feel the same way as you.
Balancing looking after your mental health and keeping up to date can be challenging, but ultimately talking to other people and being careful about where you get your information from can make a big difference.
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