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Taking Care of your Mental Health Amid Distressing News Stories

A quick scan of any social media platform will show you that the news at the moment is incredibly troubling for many people, especially students and families of students. Recently there have been some terrible crimes, some of these against students, and it’s unsurprising that students are feeling heartbroken and distressed. The magnitude of these events can have a significant impact on students worldwide. Obsessively reading the news and seeing these stories unfold can feel extremely personal, even with no direct connection. So if you’re a student and you’re feeling uneasy, overwhelmed or anxious, know you aren’t alone. We have included some strategies below to help manage any distress you may be experiencing.

Stay Connected

Spend time with people who give you a sense of security, calm, or happiness, and those who best understand what you are going through. Having a support network is crucial, and if you don’t feel like you have people directly around you that you can turn to for support, your TalkCampus community is available with people who understand and are here to listen and support you. If it’s your community that is being directly affected, reach out to community groups online or in-person if possible.

Consider Your Thinking

Ask yourself if your thoughts are helpful to you right now. Are there ways you can change your thinking to be more accurate and less distressing? Remind yourself that you are safe, challenge any thoughts that have no basis of fact and try to ground yourself in the present. If you are feeling overwhelmed, try some strategies like writing down your thoughts and fact-checking yourself. Stop in the moment and ask yourself, ‘Is this true?’ and ‘Is this helpful?’. Think about what you may say to a friend who was having that same thought. You don’t have to change your thoughts into positive ones, as this also isn’t helpful if that doesn’t align with how you are feeling, but focusing on changing them to realistic thoughts should help you ease the feeling of overwhelm for whatever you may be coping with.

Take Meaningful Action

Channel your emotions into positive action, within your own emotional capacity. That may be attending a vigil, supporting others in your community or donating to local charities. Whatever you can do to find purpose and a sense of control, and to remind yourself of all the good that exists in the world.

Choose Your News Sources Wisely

There is a lot of information coming through, especially on platforms like TikTok who have algorithms designed to show you more of what they believe you will be interested in. This is often based on what is shared the most and where a lot of fake news may exist. In challenging times, this scary and exaggerated content can exacerbate anxiety, so do your best to filter these out. Wherever you can, choose reputable news sources who abide by the journalistic code of ethics.

Schedule in Time for the News

Constantly consuming news through scrolling on our phones can greatly increase anxiety in a way that is not helpful to our everyday functioning. Schedule in 30 minutes a day to scroll through and update yourself, just like you would with another appointment or a lunch break. To help you keep that schedule, make sure you have something planned right after your designated news time. Effectively managing your media consumption can help you stay up to date while also reducing your stress and helping you to feel in control.

Do Something Healthy After Consuming News

When everything feels so uncertain and scary, ensuring you break up any news intake with something positive or healthy will help you to feel grounded and boost your resilience. This could be as simple as scheduling walks or calls with a friend, starting a new hobby, or moving your body in some way. Engaging in positive and healthy self-care activities that are rewarding, meaningful, or enjoyable, even if you don’t feel like it, can make you feel better.

Ask a Friend or Family Member to be Your Filter

While watching news updates may be triggering symptoms of distress, anxiety, or depression, it’s easy to feel almost just as anxious at the thought of not following what’s going on. Asking someone to filter the news for you and keep you updated on the most important updates will help you tune out, while still feeling in the know. It’s best to ask someone who feels as though they have the emotional capacity to keep you updated. ‘Mute’ any accounts on your social media that share news stories to give yourself a break and ensure that you won’t be surprised by anything triggering while scrolling on your timeline.

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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