Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
Looking at the news lately is bound to hit you right in the feelings. It’s almost impossible not to be overwhelmed by it all.
There are so many terrible things happening. Massacres in places of worship. Thousands of people heading to the US all at once, demanding to be let in. Bombs being sent through the mail. A heated election cycle that is only a glimpse of the coming presidential election. One horrific crime after another.
And at the foundation of everything is hatred.
The venomous things that people are saying to one another all in support or rejection of these dreadful occurrences are the most dangerous part of it all.
If you’re a peace-loving person who just wants to get along with his or her fellow American, all of this stuff can be enough to make you want to crawl under the nearest rock, preferably a rock without Wi-Fi or a cell signal.
When you spend your days engrossed in the news
Sometimes I get emails from people who wonder how I can write about the things I do and still remain upbeat.
I’ve been working in the alternative news industry since 2011. There have been days at I time I was glued to my laptop covering manhunts, constitutional insults, or scenes of horror. It would be a lie (not to mention rather unhinged) to say that I was unmoved by it all.
Sometimes I ended the day with such awful scenes playing through my head that my night was filled with restless nightmares replaying all that I had learned. Sometimes the last thing I wanted to do the next morning when it was time to start work was switch on that laptop and see the most recent gruesome act of hatred humans had perpetrated on one another.
But here I am, eight years later, still doing it. Still trying to make sense of it all and write things that pull people together instead of tearing them apart. Still looking for that common thread that runs between us all and hoping that more people grab onto that instead of trying to sever it.
And most of the time, I’m okay. Most of the time, I can keep from becoming terribly depressed by the awful things about which I spend my days researching and writing. I can share with you a few of the ways that I prevent the bad news from causing so much anxiety that I want to throw my laptop in the lake and live out the rest of my days, blissfully uninformed.
How can you handle the mental toll of terrible events?
First of all, stop thinking that you’re being weak or fragile by being bothered by these horrific events. I’ve seen people commenting that they aren’t “tough” enough to handle all of the awful things we’re being bombarded with by the media.
It has nothing whatsoever to do with toughness, weakness, or fragility. If you are a caring human being, of course these things get to you. It’s natural and, bonus, a sign that you aren’t a sociopath. This isn’t to say that people who can put some mental distance between themselves and the events are unstable – it is just to say that there is nothing wrong or weak about those who are overwhelmed by it.
As much as these things may strike at you, deep in your heart, you can learn to put a bit of healthy distance between yourself and the events.
- If you are able to help in some way, whether it’s a financial donation or providing some kind of emotional support for others, that can help you to handle the event because you’re taking a positive action instead of feeling helpless
- If you are a person of faith, you can pray for those involved.
- If you are afraid of some event that seems to be looming, you can switch off the news and focus on preparing your home and family for that possibility.
- If you can’t do anything for the people involved, maybe you can just do something good for somebody else, locally where you are right now. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Grab a cup of coffee for a homeless person. Make some donations of unused clothing to the women’s shelter. Never underestimate the power of doing good in an ugly world.
- If the rest of your family loves a passionate debate, let them know politely that the topic is really getting to you and go enjoy a nice walk while they’re having their discussion. You aren’t obligated to bear witness to their discussions if it’s causing you stress.
- If you don’t need to be on social media for work, then stay away from it. That toxicity won’t do you any good. If you must be on it, then use the “hide” function to keep certain people out of your newsfeed. Use the “block” feature in groups that you visit if there are people you find particularly negative and stressful.
- Spend time outdoors. There’s nothing more healing to your spirit than Mother Nature. Take a sunrise walk and listen to the birds. Go to the park with your dog or your kids. Focus on the here and the now.
Most of all, do your best to surround yourself with kindhearted people who aren’t going to badger you about the event in an effort to make you see their point of view. And that means in the real world as well as the virtual one.
How do you remain informed without getting overwhelmed?
We all want to be well-informed about the goings-on in the world. That’s why you’re on a preparedness site. That’s why you are paying attention to this. You don’t want to be one of those oblivious, reality TV show aficionados whose form of entertainment actually has nothing to do with reality.
But how do you balance this when you’re feeling horribly beaten down by the things in the news?
Some of this overwhelm can be relieved by the sources from which you get your information.
- I try to post articles that, while newsy, offer suggestions for readers to put into action. Other articles posted here have nothing to do with current events. Subscribe to my newsletter to get these in your inbox.
- If you haven’t subscribed to Prepper Website’s newsletter, do so. It’s full of articles that have productive suggestions as opposed to scary headlines that will leave you feeling worse than when you started. You can get a general idea of what’s going on along with constructive suggestions for dealing with it.
- Another great website is Ready Nutrition. There are tons of articles on self-reliance and natural health there for those who want to focus on constructive things.
The next thing to do is, for the love of all things cute and fluffy, avoid the comments section of any news piece you happen to read. In most of them, you’ll be besieged by laptop warriors who spew hatred and ill-conceived 30-second “solutions” for complicated issues.
You can stay informed while taking a step back. You can avoid the news outlets that are the most controversial, the ones who stir up the problem to keep the hits coming in, the ones who make insulting, blanket generalizations. Avoid those with obvious bias and stick to the ones that report in a less sensationalistic manner. Reuters is rather dry but they tend to be a little bit less blatantly biased. You can often get a good idea of what’s going on in the world by simply scanning the headlines on their homepage. Check out their service, The Wire, too.
And please, please, stay away from politics. Nothing is more likely to turn into a heated insult-fest than a political discussion or website. Politics is poison, and you are under no obligation to partake in that.
Focus on the things you can control
I’ll tell you a secret. Sometimes I feel this way too. I also get overwhelmed, and when I do, I take a step back to get a little bit of distance from it. It doesn’t mean that I’m burying my head in the sand. It means that I’m focusing on the things that I, personally, can control.
I can’t control mass shooters or mail bombers. I can’t control the American immigration policies. I can’t control the elections or the people protesting them.
But I can control my response to all of it. I can focus on the things I can actually do for myself and my family.
- I can go shooting at the range.
- I can add to my preps.
- I can improve my home security.
- I can grow microgreens in my kitchen windowsill.
- I can work on making Christmas gifts using a new skill I’ve been learning.
- I can mulch my garden so the soil is rich and nourished in the spring.
- I can improve my fitness.
- I can read informative books and articles about skills that I want to learn.
If you’re in this place of overwhelm right now, then switch your focus to the things you can control.
You can do things differently.
Cultivate things that are positive and reduce your exposure to things that are negative.
Remember that you can’t control the huge, horrible events in this world, but you can control your response to them by focusing on your preparations and your mental well-being.
You can choose to stay out of these arguments that nobody wins. You aren’t going to change the minds of people calling others names on the internet. You aren’t going to enlighten people who aren’t seeking that kind of knowledge.
If your own well-being is at risk, take a step back. Observe it all from a place of distance. As the old saying goes, those who wrestle with pigs get muddy too. Stay out of the mud and you will feel far less overwhelmed.
What about you?
How do you regroup when it’s all too much? How do you handle the barrage of horrible events? Share your secrets for preventing overwhelm in the comments below.