Did you know? Regular exposure to upsetting information can trigger symptoms that mimic post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety—sometimes referred to as vicarious trauma. Some people are more susceptible and sensitive to these effects, which can include panic attacks, mood changes, sleep disturbances, being easily startled, nightmares, head and stomach aches, and trouble concentrating.
There's a benefit to allowing yourself to passionately follow news and information about issues that matter to you, but it's critical to note that we are the most helpful and effective when we take good care of ourselves.
1. Take charge of your media exposure.
- Be mindful of when you are reading the news (hint: right before bed is probably not a good idea).
- Pay attention to how you feel when reading news or social media. Do you feel your pulse quicken? Do you have the urge to reply with a snarky comment or a defensive comment?
- Monitor your "push notifications" or automatic alerts on your mobile devices so you don't receive them while you're sleeping.
2. Know your triggers.
You don't have to have a mental health diagnosis to be more sensitive to different topics. We've all faced difficult things and some of us are simply more sensitive to certain issues. Sensitivities can include politics, abortion, abuse, weather-related disaster, racism, war, violence against the LGBT+ population, animal abuse, etc.
3. Practice good self-care.
Eat well, sleep well, exercise, drink plenty of water, spend time with loved ones, enjoy your pets and/or children, have fun and continue to be active with household duties and chores.
4. Process your feelings.
Talk to someone who cares about you and is like-minded when you feel sensitive or upset by events. There's always time to converse and debate when your internal resources are shored up.
5. Talk to a therapist.
Some people are afraid their therapist will judge or disagree with them when they talk about social and political matters. Most therapists know you aren't wanting to debate, but wanting to explore how to take care of yourself when social events upset you. If you are unsure, be assertive and say something like, "I am really worried about political events today. Can we explore ways that I can manage my worries?"
6. Get involved.
- Donate blood.
- Volunteer at shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
- Learn about how to get involved with groups who support your beliefs and values.
- Engage in a random act of kindness.
To learn more about dealing with upsetting news and tragedy, visit Pine Rest.
Written by Kimberley A. Kunze, PsyD, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.
Courtesy of Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.
Photo Courtesy of JGI/Jamie Grill