So it’d be a lie if I said the world isn’t having it’s dark moments lately. Everyone knows what and who I mean. Tyrant leaders, governments falling apart and showing instability, cuts to things that are there to help people live normally, environmental problems, every day there will be a sad news story and at least every month it seems something bad happens.
I decided to start writing this post and maybe possibly turn it into a series of posts, because I know what it’s like to be paralyzed at your computer or phone in fear and scared by the news. The way my anxiety goes about it normally goes like this: I check twitter, I’ll go on the moments and if something dramatic has happened in either the world or politics, I will click on it and read the usual news websites (BBC, Guardian etc.) that come up first. Then I will go onto the tabloids that aren’t known to be trustworthy but in my state of anxiety my brain is believing anything and wants to know every corner of the situation in case it can find something to calm itself down, this goes on and on as people’s comments come in and the situation is drawn out and escalated – people argue, people bring up other things to prove their point, people have conspiracies and different theories and it all vigourously whirls around my brain like a tornado and I normally end up in a state of sitting, physically shaking at my computer, feeling like I’m about to throw up and feeling absolutely helpless and unsafe.
And yet every natural disaster, every terrorist attack, every dodgy thing a world leader does, every joke/meme about the apocalypse, even obvious propaganda – the cycle of anxiety starts. People close to me know about this and the answers I get always dwell to ‘don’t read it/stop reading it/turn your phone off and distract yourself.’. When I’m in my state of anxiety, I’m convinced keeping up to date with not only the story, but every randomers comment on Twitter or response to news articles, is somehow keeping me safe? That whilst my body is in flight or fight mode, that somehow keeping my brain focused on what’s making me panic is preparing my body for any danger. Yes, even over random tweets of politicians arguing about how they feel about Brexit or such. Hell, I’ll admit even the recent satire, comedy Sacha Boran Cohen has released ‘This is America’ (which despite what I’m about to say, I strongly recommend everyone watches it) left me in a spiral because in his show his extremist, pro-gun character he puts on manages to get people in Congress to admit they think arming young children would be a good idea? It’s bloody smart because it’s showing the world the true attitude of these people who are in great power but it left me in a spiral because I felt helpless that there’s nothing I could do to further expose these people or maybe even do anything to push their careers to a deserving downfall? I was scared about how people in the US government think.
But, I know deep down, it is not healthy nor safe to do this to myself. It is also not good for me or anyone around me to just give in and give up. To become a shell of complete pessimism and hopelessness, especially now. And I know there is plenty of people who may not fall into absolute anxiety and panic attack frenzy like I do, but will see news stories and fall back to ‘why care anymore’ attitudes – I can’t explain how sad or cringy it makes me feel when I’ve seen people say they’re not voting because ‘there is no point’, or claim protests ‘don’t do anything’. I remember once I called out an old friend back in high school on littering and she just said to me ‘who cares global warming is happening anyways’. It breaks my heart and spirit. But I refuse to give up completely, I want to help anyone who ever feels like this. I want to give even the smallest bit of hope to someone. I want to encourage people to try and fight the negativity because we need it. Our mental health definitely needs it. Sure, we can’t change the world completely but one day all of our little actions might and what I suggest now might help someone sleep better tonight and better on days when the news just seems like a complete rainstorm.
What I say doesn’t even have to be necessary for being anxious by the news. It’s meant to be for helping you deal with reading scary things online and dealing with a feeling of hopelessness. Whether you’re reading the news, whether you saw something your friends posted online that has made you feel sad, whether something happened to you that has made you feel like it is the worst day in the world. Don’t give in to the hopelessness feeling.
- Step away from the computer, put the phone down or close the tab.
That weird saying of describing something as ‘being like a car crash but you’re unable to look away’ is definitely true and it can be relevant to anything. In my case, bad world/political/environment news or maybe even obviously trash comments online. I start reading something I know from the get-go will upset me but I keep reading and reading and scrolling and I can’t look away even though I know I won’t get full closure because social media is a big, endless hole of different personalities, fake personalities, trolls, fake news, exaggerations and stories. But what you need to do right now is close the tab. Whether it’s an article proving how disappointing our country leader is or that your crush has put themselves as in a relationship on Facebook. You need to close it and take a deep breath. You’re allowed to do this.
- Message someone to talk out your anxiety or even just talk it through with yourself out loud.
Your anxiety and demons can sometimes yell over you and you feel very out of control but when you start to talk your thoughts through, rant, or label what of your thoughts is irrational or unhelpful it can really help you calm down and move on maturely. I always find myself doing it when I tell my mum something has made me scared or anxious. I’ll find myself going ‘then again, that news article can’t be entirely true because of X fact’ or if it’s a personal situation ‘then again this person might not have invited me out because of X reason not because they don’t like me?’. The irrational thoughts and jumps to conclusions start to fade a bit once you talk it out. If you don’t feel comfortable going to someone, I even find it helpful to talk to myself out loud just to hear something and calm myself down.
- Put on something funny, heart-warming or silly.
A cliche tip but it does help. One fun story from when I was younger, my mum tried to tell me about a space story of solar flares or something along those lines and I was too scared to let her explain the story because when I googled it, those predictable conspiracy theories that ‘this solar flare will cause the world to end’ came up like they do every space story. Obviously the moral here, I should have let my mum talk it out to me and calm my anxiety down (I was 13 here, I’ve learnt to deal with my anxiety better since) but what I did was not sleep (stupidly) but to distract myself I watched tons of reruns of Mock the Week and comedy quiz shows until I fell asleep and a day or so later I had calmed down enough to look it up again and realise they were harmless.
So stick on your favourite movie, stick on a tv show that makes you cry laughing, even google videos of positive stories or funny stories to remind you of the good stuff in the world, play a game without violence or gore in it (or do if that doesn’t agitate anxiety/bad feelings), listen to upbeat music and see if it helps!
- Finally, do not feel guilty for needing to look after yourself and consider how to deal with this anxiety
If like me, this is a common place thing that happens a lot or you find yourself having literally paralysing anxiety like I do just from looking at social media or going online – consider maybe looking into help for your anxiety because I don’t believe(I’m no expert) it is normal at all. It is normal to feel sadness and fear from bad news or from stuff that goes wrong but paralysing anxiety is not normal.
Secondly, and I need to physically remind myself of this too, do not feel bad for taking time out for yourself or taking a break from Twitter or Facebook. A lot of misinformation gets shared on there and you need to remind yourself now that politicians, celebrities, journalists, world leaders and even just regular people can share their opinions and views online and claim it as facts and if it is causing your mental health to drain you need to separate yourself from it for a bit. If you were holding a burning pan that was burning your hand you would need to let go. This is a similar thing. I always get anxious that maybe trying to distract myself means I’m being ignorant or ‘turning a blind eye’ but you need to remember – as long as you acknowledge something needs to change and that things aren’t all howdy-doody. That there are bad things and views in the world – you aren’t being ignorant.
I do want to write more of these posts, to share how to invest in positive news, how to make small changes, share some good causes when I find them and suggest things for myself and others to do but for now I will leave you with that. Just some simple things to remember to start bringing yourself out of the hopelessness feeling.
Go and get yourself a glass of water and stick a funny movie on.
Thank you for reading,