WHEN THE BAD NEWS DOESN'T STOP: How to Cope When the World is on Fire.
Emotional Health Editor
Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered social worker with a private practice in Cobourg, Ontario. Visit her online at: maureenpollardmsw.com
2020 has been a changing and challenging year: forest fires raging, a global environmental crisis, a pandemic causing restrictions to prevent the spread of a new, unpredictable virus, social justice violations and deaths bringing attention to the on-going suffering of Black people, Indigenous people and people of colour due to systemic racism and violence. It can feel frightening and desperate, sad and lonely.
When so many tragic stories are covered daily in the news and across social media, it can be overwhelming. Conversations about these difficult topics can lead to arguments, causing serious rifts in families, between friends and across communities. How can anyone to cope and feel any sense of positive possibility when being bombarded by such information?
It’s true, the world has many problems, but the world also holds much good. Here are some tips for calming your worries and facing the future with hope:
#1. Turn down the noise. When we are being pressed by intense input, our senses get overwhelmed. We don’t always notice how loud our daily environment can be. Try to find ways to reduce the noise of your surroundings. If possible, sit in silence for a little while every day. If silence feels overwhelming, too, try listening to soft music or a calming audiobook, podcast or guided meditation.
#2. Turn it all off. Many of us have some combination of televisions, radios, computers and smartphones bombarding us with news stories, crime dramas, reality competitions and other stressful data. Take time once in a while to just turn it all off. It can be very restful to turn off the screens, to delete those social media apps and engage in other activities for a period of time; perhaps unplugging for 24 hours would give your mind a chance to reset.
#3. Look for the good. Even when things are very difficult and we feel very low, we can find something – perhaps a very small thing - that is good. Was the sky beautiful today? Did you hear your favourite song? Did you spend time with a pet? Look for these moments and really pay attention to them. It can help you notice that there are still many positives all around us.
#4. Be the good. Engage in random acts of kindness for people in your life, or people you meet only briefly in passing. Look for opportunities to make the world a better place through small acts and remember that every bit helps. Have you got time to pick up some trash along a trail or at the beach? Can you do a favour for your neighbour? Helping others helps you too, and reminds us that we have influence in this world even when we know there are so many difficult things happening.
#5. Connect with others. It’s easy to feel alone when we think about the sad stories and terrible events happening around the world. You’re part of a family, a neighbourhood, a community, and when you find ways to talk and be with others, you remember that you’re not alone after all.
It’s true, we can’t solve all of the world’s problems. Even so, we can take care of our small corner of the world and feel better for taking charge of the things that we can do to stay grounded and strong.