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Thanks to social media, news reports and violent images that bombard us at all hours, we often experience what experts call vicarious trauma when a horrific event occurs. It’s in our physiological nature as human beings to feel some amount of empathy and sorrow for others dealing with a traumatic event. Even though we’re not physically present, we still feel the mental health effects of what’s going on.
This is applicable to any grim situation. An impending war, a relentless virus, a devastating mass shooting ― you don’t have to be immersed in the crisis to be affected by it. If you are dealing with feelings of unrest, anxiety or doom right now, know that it’s completely normal. And while you may not be able to abate it entirely, it is crucial to know how to stay informed while protecting your mental health.
Disinformation spreads like wildfire during times of crisis. Make sure you’re following credible sources and engaging with confirmed reports, tweets and other content).
If possible, try to find multiple sources confirming the same information before you share or even necessarily believe a report. Spreading and buying into inaccurate stories, photos and videos only contributes to your own panic and anxiety, and the panic and anxiety of others.
It’s unrealistic to suggest logging off entirely, but it’s vital to set some boundaries when it comes to social media. Stay informed, then give your brain a break.
For example, try setting aside a block of time to check in on the news. If you find yourself reaching for your phone at night when you can’t sleep, try directing your attention to a lighter part of the internet instead of scrolling through headlines.
Do everything within your power to stick to your normal schedule. That includes bedtimes, wake times, working if you’re able to handle it, and any other regular aspects of your routine.
During tragic events, we feel a loss of control in our lives and everything going on around us. The more we can stick to our normal routines, the more our brains and our bodies feel like we’re back in control.
Our emotions need a physical outlet. To relieve some of that anxiety and tension, try gently moving your body.
This could mean going for a walk, doing some light stretching, taking a home boxing class, or whatever it is that helps you feel good. The idea is less about exercise per se and more about finding a tangible way to get out your feelings
It’s not frivolous to feel affected by what’s happening in the world right now. Suppressing anything you might be feeling only contributes to poor mental health.
Experts emphasize that it’s vital to acknowledge how you’re feeling, instead of dismissing it in the hopes of gaining some sense of ease. That might include crying (and research shows that crying can be a therapeutic release).
You should definitely be aware of these habits and be mindful of when they might turn into something insidious.
If you’re turning to alcohol or other unhealthy coping mechanisms as a crutch, you should reach out to a professional or someone who can help you process what’s happening in a healthier way. Experts stress that these behaviours often worsen your mental health if they turn into a reliance.
This could be to your therapist, your loved ones, your co-workers or anyone you trust when it comes to sharing your feelings. Support systems are crucial during periods of unrest and trauma.
Pay attention to how you feel and behave in the coming days. If you notice you’re withdrawing from others, not keeping up with a standard routine, or feeling intense emotions that make it difficult to function, it’s time to seek professional mental health advice.
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