“No news is good news” is becoming more and more literal every single day.
Between a pandemic that still isn’t over, seemingly constant mass shootings, new daily harrowing details about the attempt to overthrow a democratic election, the overturning of Roe v. Wade and so much more—it’s been a lot.
If the news is getting to be a bit much for you, you are not alone. If you need some help helping yourself, these tips from mental health professionals can help you gain perspective and take care of No. 1.
10 Tips for Taking Care of Your Mental Health
Set healthy boundaries and limit your screentime.
“Limit the time you spend watching TV and listening to the news on the radio, and engaging in online social media discussions around distressing events and developments and television,” clinical psychologist and author of A Deeper Wellness: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety and Traumas Dr. Monica Vermani advises. “Realize that what you focus on expands. Minimize exposure while staying informed, and you will begin to feel the difference in very short order. Especially before bedtime, minimize exposure to news. If necessary, change your social media settings to limit news feeds and highly charged online discussions.”
Stay informed on how to take care of yourself and your loved ones in light of recent changes—especially in terms of reproductive health.
While it’s important to curb your doom-scrolling to a degree, it is crucial to know if your own needs are changing amid the current landscape. Dr. Sue Varma, MD PC DFAPA, a board-certified psychiatrist, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, says to ensure you’re informed about how potential changes to access to reproductive healthcare may impact you and your loved ones.
You’ll need to know specific things to stay safe, including whether you potentially need to move to another state or location to get the necessary care for you or a loved one. Staying informed allows you to make the most empowered decisions in an era when your choices as a whole may be tragically limited.
Don’t shut out people you love if they respectfully disagree with your views.
“Be careful or mindful of who you vent to,” Dr. Varma notes. “This is really important because right now we’re feeling very raw and vulnerable as a whole. Be selective: Are you talking to someone who is sympathetic and empathetic and cares or who shares your opinion? These are really important.”
Dr. Varma also recommends having these discussions in quiet areas, not in large social gatherings.
It’s important to also ask yourself why you’re having the discussion, she advises: “What is the reason to be having this conversation if you need to? Is it to change someone’s mind?”
If that’s the case, tread carefully if it’s someone with whom you want to stay connected in general.
“I’m very much of the belief that we need to express ourselves, but I also believe in the importance of maintaining and preserving relationships, because there is a loneliness crisis,” Dr. Varma says. “But on the flip side of that, the loneliness situation is worsened when we are dealing with someone who doesn’t understand us. Loneliness isn’t just about the number of people, it’s also about the quality of connection. Do we feel seen?”
End unproductive conversations with candor and kindness.
“Let people who wish to engage in discussions
about news and events know your limits. If you would prefer not to talk about war, mass shootings and
other divisive or polarizing subjects, you can respectfully decline to do so,” Dr. Vermani says. “A brief and truthful explanation,
like: ‘While I try to stay informed about what is happening in the world, for the sake of my mental health, I
prefer to spend my time engaging in more positive conversations at this time.’ An explanation of this nature
lets others know not only that you prefer not to engage in certain subjects, but why.”
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Create safe spaces for those you love.
Dr. Vermani says that creating a safe, compassionate place for
yourself and others to express troubling thoughts, cognitive distortions, fears and anxieties can help all of you feel better and find support
Challenge your pervasive negative thoughts.
“Sure, anything can happen, including bad things, but it is important
to examine the possibility versus the probability of bad things happening,” Dr. Vermani says. “Take control of automatic negative
thoughts and replace them with more adaptive, healthy ones. Remind yourself that while everything is
possible, it is important to examine the likelihood of bad things happening.”
Keep yourself in good company.
Misery loves company, but the problem with that sort of company is that once it comes in, it never wants to leave. “Stay connected with positive people who reinforce positive thoughts,” Dr. Vermani recommends. “Take charge of the energy in your day.
Choose to surround yourself with positive, uplifting people. Spend time with people who make you laugh,
and have the wisdom to see the good amongst the challenges in the world.”
This means if you’re in a dark place about the state of the world and have the choice between venting with your Debbie Downer sister or chatting up a politically engaged but hilarious pal, blood isn’t necessarily thicker than water.
Take care of your body
“Enhance your self-care routines with regular exercise, meditation, healthy eating,
prioritizing sleep, engaging in regular fun-filled hobbies, interests and activities, and getting out into nature,” Dr. Vermani says. Get your endorphins flowing!
Take action and be (or donate to!) the change you wish to see in the world.
It’s easy to feel helpless right now, but taking some form of action can empower you and help you feel better. Dr. Varma recommends donating to causes that support reproductive health in the ways you believe to be best if that’s important to you, and finding ways to advocate for causes close to you. You’ll help others and that will in turn help you to heal.
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It’s really easy to get bogged down in the negativity right now, especially when it feels like those who could catalyze positive change aren’t doing anything—but it’s important to find something to be grateful for, even in the mire.
“Constant exposure to and reinforcement of bad news can lead to stress, burnout, apathy and catastrophizing,” Dr. Vermani explains. “Decide to focus on
gratitude for what you have in this world. Pay attention to good news, and positive developments. And do at
least one thing every day that brings you joy. Start a gratitude log, where you keep a record of something you
are grateful for at the end of every day.”
- Dr. Sue Varma, MD PC DFAPA, a board-certified psychiatrist, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center