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  • Writer's pictureKiki Fehling

5 Tips for Coping with Difficult World News

Updated: Feb 24

A version of this article was published on Psychology Today.


When I woke up this morning and immediately saw more terrible news from Israel and Gaza, it felt unbearable. I practiced several DBT skills without thinking about it–mindfulness of current grief, asserting my needs to my partner, and then paced breathing while wrapping myself in a comfy blanket. Partway through my paced breathing practice, I realized I should share with others how I’m coping.

I know I’m not alone in my pain and suffering. Reading about terrible things happening in the world can be overwhelming and exhausting, particularly if you are emotionally sensitive. Watching violence on social media and the news can feel traumatizing. You may be feeling moments of existential hopelessness or intense grief. You may be feeling rage at injustice. You may be experiencing fear for your or your family's physical safety. All of these emotions make sense. It’s important to remember all of your coping skills and use them purposefully and proactively. Here are five tips for coping using DBT skills right now and whenever overwhelmed by world news.

1. Regulate your nervous system. Stress is stress. The stress you feel from watching violence on TV is the same physical stress you’d feel if you were watching it in person. If you notice yourself feeling agitated after watching the news, or if you’ve felt totally drained or consistently irritable lately, it’s likely your fight-flight-or-freeze response is/was activated. That's your cue to regulate your nervous system. Use the TIP skills: temperature, intense exercise, paced breathing, and paired muscle relaxation. Or, use whatever other nervous system regulation skills you know. Meditating, resting, stretching, and moving your body are all grounding options.

2. Focus on distress tolerance. Beyond the TIP skills, use other distress tolerance skills. DBT’s distress tolerance skills are designed to be used when we’re overwhelmed or when there’s something very painful happening that we can’t yet problem-solve. With large-scale violence and threats of violence, we may certainly want to problem-solve and take steps towards activism or volunteering, but we often first need to focus on coping with the pain in this moment. Use all of your best distress tolerance skills: ACCEPTS, IMPROVE, Self-Soothing... My favorites: distracting with pleasant activities like watching light television, doing nice things for others, and self-soothing with soft/weighted blankets or listening to pop music.


3. Maintain physical self-care. The PLEASE skills from DBT help you build “a dam of resilience” against the waves of emotional pain that life may throw at you. Right now, when it feels like there are a lot of waves, make sure you are eating, sleeping, exercising, and maintaining your other normal physical health habits as much as feels possible for you. If certain substances or foods help you cope but can cause you problems, be sure not to overuse those coping methods. Get outside in nature if you can.

4. Feel your emotions. While it sometimes can feel safer to avoid feeling our emotions, ignoring stress can actually further damage our bodies. And, suppressing emotions can sometimes actually make them feel more intense. So, if you’re feeling things, feel them. Cry. Journal. Talk to a friend. Listen to emotional music. Feel your emotions. Reach out for support. Of course, you may have to limit how much you feel at certain times; that’s OK. Just be sure to find some safe time and space to support and validate your inner experiences.

5. Turn off the news. Emotions are caused by prompting events (e.g., triggers). Sometimes the best thing to do to stop painful emotions is to stop their prompting events. In this case, for most people, this probably means eliminating your access to violent images, angry takes, and informational updates about world news. Log-off of social media. Turn off your phone. Unplug from tech. Consume less news than you normally do. Tell your loved ones you need a break from talking about it. Not watching the news does not mean you don’t care about what’s happening in the world. Staying healthy in the long run will allow you to be a better activist or be a better friend for someone in need.

Important to note: not all of these tips will be relevant for people of certain identities living in certain locations hope these tips help you. It's hard to avoid the news when you're living it, for example. But hopefully something on here provides some support to you. We all can only keep doing our best to cope and to create a better, safer world for everyone.

May you be safe.

May you be healthy.

May you know peace.

May all beings be safe.

May all beings be healthy.

May all beings know peace.


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