Violence, divisive politics, loss of life, economic instability, human rights violations, and other tragedies and tensions that are plastered all over our social media feeds make me lose my balance. For some of us, these events contribute to our sense of the world being in turmoil and can make us feel hopeless. They can shake our drive to make the world a better place. They can make us feel ill.
Early this morning I saw the news of the school shooting in Texas. Just minutes ago I saw the news of the plane crash in Cuba. There have been casualties in both places. As soon as I see news like this I experience a wave of sadness, I begin to feel tension in my back and shoulders, my breath shortens and a knot forms in my stomach. When the world is in chaos, that reverberates right through my mind and body.
On days like today, anyone’s mental health can be shaken by the tragedies taking place. At times we can become so overwhelmed with bad news that we choose to be apathetic or tune out of current events all together. Or we allow it to completely take over our emotions, wreaking havoc on our central nervous system and causing distress. Balancing concern and empathy while taking care of ourselves is a big ask. But if you are easily provoked to an emotional reaction like I am, it is so important. Allowing these events to affect us, anger us and cause us to band together is a good thing. People feeling compelled to act helps speed progress. But we need to also care for ourselves. We need to ensure that we aren’t loosing ourselves in the constant barrage of distressing news stories.
I don’t have any real answers for you today, readers. But I do ask that you please take care of yourselves. Make sure that if the things happening around you are unsettling you take time to self-soothe. Self-care is becoming almost cliché, but really, it is important to take time to ground yourself and remind yourself of the good all around you. That Mr. Rogers quote that circulates every time one of these atrocities happens is a valuable piece of advice: look for the helpers. Look for the examples of people trying their best (hem hem – Stoneman Douglas High School students). Look for all the good. Find the meaning amongst the chaos.
I don’t know about you, but I try really hard not to beat myself up over feeling. I’ve heard too many times that I “care too much”, but I’m not going to fault myself for caring. It isn’t wrong to feel a sense of urgency and despair in times of crisis – even when the crisis is far away. Feeling empathy for others is a good thing. But there’s a reason we are instructed to put on our own oxygen masks first when we’re on airplanes. We need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others.
Remember too that conflict sells. Our news cycle leans towards the bad, the tragedies, the tensions. Yet everywhere around us there are people doing good. There are still things worth celebrating. There is progress being made. Even when so much is going wrong, there is hope.
Hope is the topic I want to end with today. I am fortunate that I am not currently in an episode of depression. When I have been, I am even more affected by the news. It can make me jump from sorrow to suicidal thinking at an alarming rate. I know I’m not alone in that. I know that for many of us, the news can make us feel as though there is no point in carrying on. Why should we live when the world is falling apart in front of our eyes? When for every cute picture of your friends’ pets there is an article about corrupt politics? When our mental health is at its worst and we are already running out of reasons to stay alive or hopeful, breaking world news can feel like the last straw. So I’m going to tell you something that’s going to sound really corny but I hope you hear it – you need to stay alive, to stay involved, because you care. If you are affected by world news, that means you care about things that are important. You are the hope that things will get better. Our future rests in the hands of people who care.
Sorry for the rant, guys. I know it wasn’t the most cohesive thing ever written. If you take something away from it, let it be that caring about others is an important value, but so is caring for yourself.
My thoughts are with those who have been affected by the plane crash in Cuba and the shooting at Santa Fe High School.
Hug the people you love.