5 Ways To Manage Anxiety About Horrible Things On The News You Can’t Control

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5 Ways To Manage Anxiety About The News
Health And Wellness

The news can make managing anxiety pretty tricky these days.

Few things are as challenging as feeling a gut punch every time you tune into your newsfeed, which can make it hard to muster resilience and risk compassion fatigue. This is why managing anxiety, so you can get through this with your own mental health intact, is so important.

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These days, the news can deliver more to us than just information: It can deliver anxiety. With so much suffering and strife in the world, it seems like hardly a day goes by when the news doesn’t expose you to more tragedy and loss.

This can leave you with a feeling of angst and unease that erodes your sense of security.

News anxiety is not a new phenomenon. With the unprecedented capacity to binge on information and real-time media coverage, you've never had more information to process.

The more you read and watch, the more you care. The more you care, the more you want to keep reading and watching. As you engage, you feel closer to what's happening, even if you aren't there or don't know anyone affected.

You can't help but care and feel deeply about what you see. Suffering stirs your compassion and drives feelings of angst and frustration that are real, though confusing to process constructively.

Understanding your vulnerabilities and responsibilities can help you take control next time you can't pull yourself away from the news.

These 5 steps can help keep you managing anxiety about the world around you.

1. Understand that experiencing anxiety means that you care.

A clarion call for focus, anxiety helps pull your awareness and energy into the places you care about most.

There are so many life luxuries we take for granted — most notably our safety, shelter, and day-to-day life as we know it. When catastrophe strikes and threatens the pillars you rely on, your sense of safety can become compromised.

Recognize this sort of anxiety as a reflection of your compassion and capacity to put yourself in the shoes of the affected. Feeling empathy for their suffering means you care.

2. Recognize that certain events may touch a nerve for you.

You react to the world through the lens of your experiences, and many of those experiences aren’t necessarily pleasant.

Events that cause anxiety can be accelerated by memories, past experiences of similar situations, or feelings. Your brain is designed to remember these events and protect you from future situations that could harm you.

When your anxiety fires, it's often warning you of a similar situation to something you’ve experienced before.

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3. Look for the helpers.

Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, has famously attributed this wise advice to his mother’s early teaching, offering that in times of catastrophic distress, helpers will always be there in the sidelines making things better.

“If you look for the helpers,” he assures, “you’ll know that there is hope.”

In the face of despair and tragedy, what you need most is hope, and it can be found in human compassion and kindness, always present in times of great need.

4. Channel anxiety into action.

Whether you give of your time, support a friend, raise awareness, or donate money or needed supplies, getting involved gives your anxiety an outlet and reduces distress.

Research shows stress can propel you toward connection and action, a response dubbed the "tend and befriend" response. Doing something proactive and helpful can go a long way toward diminishing your anxiety.

5. Consider a "news diet."

With the 24-hour news cycle, chances are good that something horrible is happening somewhere almost all the time, and that can be overwhelming.

The key to responding compassionately is to protect the limits of emotional stimulation and limit the amount of stimulation you take in.

Watching nonstop coverage of a horrible situation keeps you stuck in the problem, can be emotionally overwhelming, and can potentially threaten your mental health. Aim to consume your personal news minimum — enough to stay informed without risking overwhelm.

It’s impossible as a caring person not to be impacted by the news and the horrible things that keep happening around the world. Yet, it can be hard to channel this distress into useful action.

Taking control is one the most powerful things you can do, and it is the starting place of coping with anxiety. Take control of your stimulation, how you think about it, and what you do. In this way, you can powerfully control the personal impact of the uncontrollable, and reclaim a sense of hope.

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Dr. Alicia Clark is a psychologist specializing in anxiety and relationships. For more help managing anxiety, check out her book, Hack Your Anxiety and register for a free mini-ecourse by signing up for book bonuses here.

This article was originally published at Psychology Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.