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Protecting Your Mental Health from Negative News

The start of 2022 has been tough. The various stages of the pandemic have felt like TV reruns, and it feels like everywhere we look we’re being bombarded with negative news. Natural disasters and humanitarian crises are impacting communities across the world, and the war unfolding in Russia and Ukraine is causing global uncertainty and distress.

For some, these events may hit especially close to home. These disasters may be unfolding in your community, or you may have family or friends who are being directly impacted.There is a specific feeling of helplessness when you are on the other side of the world from the people who mean the most to you, and hard times hit unexpectedly. It might also being up difficult feelings from past experiences you have had.

Whether or not you are impacted directly, there’s a chance you will find yourself struggling to understand why such terrible things can happen. There may never be a satisfactory answer to this question. You may be wondering how to focus on your studies or work when nothing feels certain and carrying on as ‘normal’ feels trivial.

If you are struggling, questioning and wondering how to retain normality and carry on you are not alone in feeling this way. Traumatic events, no matter how near or far to us, can have a huge impact. Likewise if you don’t feel the way you thought, feel numb, or have a desire to avoid coverage that is also okay. However you feel right now it’s okay and perfectly valid-there is no right or wrong way to deal with these events.

There are some things you can do to support yourself during these times and to build your own internal resilience.

While the news is a great way to stay informed, it can be super tempting to stay glued to the television or your phone when a crisis is unfolding. In fact, doom scrolling is essentially a coping mechanism referred to as “monitoring,” where you try to gain control over a situation by getting as much information as you can. When we’re on social media and we’re being bombarded with very negative news, carnage, death, destruction -- fear and anxiety really heightens. We’ve been in a fearful state the last two years due to the pandemic, and anything additional may be resulting in a complete overload.

Of course you want to know what’s going on and to keep up to date with how things develop but also give yourself a break from this too. Switch off from coverage for a while and don’t overload your mind with information.

Set boundaries, ask yourself often, “is this helping me?”. If the answer is no, switch off for a while.

It's natural to be distressed by news and social coverage. But you can’t involve yourself in the efforts to help if you don’t first help yourself get to a place where you have the capacity to do so. Show yourself as much kindness, support, encouragement and patience as humanly possible. Practice self care, take long baths, drink plenty of water, try and rest, gently exercise, and relax in all the ways you enjoy. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, try and practice mindfulness, get outside for a walk or connect with loved ones.

It’s also okay to experience joy, happiness and to have good things happen to you even though there is suffering happening at the same time. Remember this.

It might help you to think of ways you can contribute and support others during these times. There are lots of volunteer opportunities but also just being there for the people around you, talking and supporting can be a real help to you and others. You could look to donate money, clothes or your time. Getting involved in a peaceful rally or other events can also help you to feel more empowered. Helping others and engaging with our local community in a meaningful way can have a great impact on our mental health, and sometimes channelling your anxious feelings into action can help you to focus on what you can do, rather than all the things you can’t.

Don’t withdraw from your friends, family and the people you connect with. Keep talking, sharing and telling people how you’re feeling. Maintaining a sense of social connection is really important and is a protective factor against mental health difficulties and feelings of hopelessness. Jump on TalkCampus and connect with our global student community about how you’re feeling.

If you’re finding it difficult to focus on your studies at this time, reach out to your tutors or student support office. There will usually be options on offer to help support and reassure any student who experiences sudden, unexpected difficulties that may affect their performance.

If you’re really struggling with your mental health, don’t wait. Reach out to those around you, to your doctor or a professional. Remember that mental health is health and you don’t have to cope with this alone.

Slow down, take time to breathe. Your mind will also be racing to try and understand all that is happening around you. Take all the time that you need.

The world is never all bad. You don’t have to ignore the bad things to see the good things, and there are so many of them. Grab a notebook and write down all the things that are good around you that you have to be grateful for. This can help to centre you and lift your mood when things are feeling really low.

We live in a world where we at times we have little control of what happens around us and often to us but we can control how we choose to react and deal with it. It is easy to become paralysed with fear and to change the way we live day to day and to attempt to protect ourselves and those we love. But we mustn’t shut our lives down, we must stay open to risk, to adventure, to travel and to learning. We must live our lives as fully and as openly as we are able to. Look after yourself, treat yourself with kindness and keep putting one foot in front of the other, however small the steps.

Life will continue to throw challenges our way as individuals, communities and as the human race. But we are stronger than we think, we are resilient and we will cope with whatever life throws at us.


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