How To Protect Your Mental Health When You’re Worried About World Events
Some days, it can feel like we’re just going from one global disaster to another. Since March of 2020, it has felt like we’ve gone from one horrible tragedy to the next. Being in a constant state of stress and anxiety can take a huge toll on your mental health.
Anxiety is about control, primarily the lack of control. It’s normal to experience a small amount of anxiety on a daily basis; it’s our natural instinct for survival. Too much anxiety, day after day, makes it hard to feel calm and in control of your life. One of the keys to managing anxiety is to stop focusing on the things you have no control over and start increasing healthy habits you have complete control over.
What many people are struggling with at this moment is war anxiety, which is a common reaction to the news and images about conflict. Symptoms of war anxiety can show up in your mind and/or body. You may be experiencing physical symptoms like fatigue, a racing heart, nausea or other stomach issues, dizziness or panic attacks. Mental and emotional symptoms could be trouble sleeping, restlessness, feeling numb or nightmares.
Here are five ways for you to take care of your mental health during turbulent times:
1. Limit All Forms Of Media
It’s important to stay informed and to be current on what’s going on in the world, but there needs to be a limit on how much news and images you’re taking in each day. Thanks to all of the technological strides made in the last ten years, there are thousands of news outlets on the web, a 24-hour news cycle, and the ability to endlessly scroll social media.
While it may seem like the more you watch, read or listen to the news, the more informed you’ll be, it’s the opposite. Taking in too much news can backfire and increase your anxiety, which makes you feel even more out of control.
Be intentional with what you’re going to read, watch, and listen to each day. Pick 1-2 outlets you trust to get news, get the information you need, and then leave. You’re in control of your social media feed, so mute any triggering content.
2. Tune Into Your Feelings
Think of your attention as a radio dial. You’re going to turn the dial down to the outside noise around you by limiting the media you take in. At the same time, you want to turn the dial up internally and start tuning into your feelings.
By becoming more aware of your feelings, you can address any mental health symptoms that may arise. Staying present with yourself allows you to be keenly aware of what you’re thinking. When you have insight into what you’re thinking at the moment, you can make decisions that align with your true feelings. Or if you start to notice your anxiety increases when people in the office start talking about national news, you can consciously make a plan to move away from that conversation and practice a stress-relieving activity.
3. Keep Your Stress-Reducing Habits
It’s really easy during difficult times to stop doing the things you normally do each day that reduce stress. You may have been feeling really overwhelmed and exhausted and think you don’t have the energy to keep up with your workouts, meditation, journaling, going to therapy, all the things you normally do to manage your stress.
While it may seem like focusing on yourself right now is really selfish and silly with everything going on, it’s vital. If you’re not making your health a priority, you can’t help yourself or anyone else. Whatever you do to manage your anxiety, make sure you’re carving out time every day to do something stress-reducing.
If you don’t have a usual workout or meditation practice, this is a great time to start. Figure out one activity you know you can do on a regular basis, find a time each day to do it, and start practicing today.
4. Think Globally, Act Locally
There’s so much happening that’s out of our immediate control, so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless. Remember that bumper sticker: think globally, act locally? The idea is: there are many things happening in our world we’re not happy about, and trying to solve problems on a global level is overwhelming. So what do you do? You focus on what’s happening around you on a local level, which will allow you to address these global issues directly.
Focus on what you can do in your community. Maybe it’s contacting certain organizations to find out how you can help by either volunteering your time or your money. Reach out to people whom you think might be struggling right now and give them a space to talk about how they’re feeling. Or if you’re struggling, reach out to people and let them know you’re not doing well and allow them to help you.
5. Focus On The Good
Despite what you see on the news and social media, there is a lot of joy, laughter, love, and compassion in our world. Sometimes it’s just hard to see it. Focus on spending time with people you really care about and who make you feel good about yourself. Do the activities that always make you feel good, like cooking, gardening, watching your favorite movie or TV show or going to a museum.
Focusing on the good doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the bad; it means you’re mindful about where you place your energy and attention. You have a limited amount of energy, so where you focus your attention is important.
Since the pandemic, we’re more isolated than ever, which means it’s really important to remember you’re not alone. This is why focusing on what is within your control and practicing healthy habits is critical.