If you’ve been feeling a little on edge lately (even more so than usual), you are not alone. The consumption of news makes up the bulk of our waking hours in modern society, and recently the news has been overwhelmingly negative. Climate inaction, the ongoing pandemic, war in Europe and the Middle East… there’s a lot going on, and every human on earth is impacted in some way or another. And for the first time in history, footage of disaster and catastrophe is in the palm of our hand.
And whilst it’s becoming increasingly important to monitor situations, educate ourselves on current affairs, and to connect and comfort in these moments, near-constant exposure to a negative news cycle can result in severe anxiety, panic and depression.
A recent study conducted prior to the recent invasion of Ukraine, found that “social media has a significant impact on spreading fear and panic… with a potential negative influence on people’s mental health and psychological well-being.”
Symptoms relating to overexposure to bad news include – but are certainly not limited to – panic attacks, increased heart rate and rapid breathing, increased negative thoughts, disordered eating, mood swings and feeling overwhelmed.
Although the dream is to switch off, modern ways of living, communication and working make it near-impossible to avoid alarmist headlines. Thankfully, if you or your loved ones are experiencing these symptoms, the World Health Organisation has some tips for coping with the onslaught of negativity:
REGULATE YOUR CONSUMPTION
As aforementioned, it’s important to stay educated when it comes to world events, however unregulated social media platforms mean anyone can say literally anything at one time. The WHO suggests getting your information from official government websites, where information is presented as fact, rather than opinion.
EMBRACE YOUR EMOTIONS
Don’t discount feeling down when others are suffering, it demonstrates your empathy and sympathy for others in the world. It is totally normal to feel overwhelmed, so avoid putting further pressure by chastising yourself for experiencing a normal reaction to tragedy. “Acknowledge that you also have control over your reactions. This can help you to feel more in control and more empowered to work toward more positive coping mechanisms,” suggests the WHO.
TAKE “YOU” TIME
Switching off to exercise, eat well, meditate or simply sleep is not selfish in times like these, it’s necessary. As the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup, so fill yours so that you can be the person the world needs.
FOCUS ON OUTCOME
The official line from the WHO is ‘thinking positive’, however that almost seems frivolous in the face of current ongoings. However you can focus on small wins within the extremities of adversity. For example, in reference to the pandemic, the WHO suggests seek out stories of recovery and communities coming together.
The theory here is to replace negative coping mechanisms (eating poorly, inactivity, doom-scrolling) with positive coping mechanisms that promote positive mental health, such as improving diet, exercise and meditation.
There is never any weakness in seeking help, especially when the world becomes overwhelming. There are a host of anonymous tele-medical help lines, including Lifeline, who are equipped with professionals that are extremely well versed in assisting you and your loved ones through hardship.
If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health, you can call Lifeline’s 24 hour support service on 13 11 14.