When there’s a lot of bad news happening in the world, it can feel like the only appropriate reaction is despair. And if you’re not visibly upset, you’re seen as either under-informed, numb from the overwhelming amount of bad in the world, or, worst of all, an unfeeling monster. But those aren’t the only options! Being faced with tragedy is never easy, but there are steps you can take to avoid complete devastation, compassion fatigue, and burnout (which does not lend itself to working toward positive change in the world!).
Here are some ideas for taking care of yourself when there’s too much bad news in the world:
1. Manage your news intake.
This might mean only reading headlines for a bit, or taking breaks from social media (like an hour before bedtime each day).
Consider asking someone close to you for an overview of what happened. Sometimes hearing it from a real person who cares about you can be a less disturbing way to learn about difficult topics.
Avoid the types of news media that particularly upset you. Maybe you find reading news emails or articles from sources you trust more manageable than learning about the news from TV or social media.
2. Recognize that you don’t need to know all of the details of every tragedy.
Ask yourself what being informed means for you. Do you want to be informed so you can take action or vote in a way that aligns with your values? Is being informed about feeling close to your community and going through things together? Is it about avoiding embarrassing yourself or seeming like you don’t care?
When you have a clear idea of why you want to be informed about current events, you will be clearer on what you want to be informed about, and what things you are okay with not knowing, or not knowing in detail.
3. Don’t feel like you need to have a big emotional reaction.
It can be possible to care deeply and choose not to fully mourn every tragedy. There is so much suffering in the world, it is impossible to mourn all of it. It’s okay to put boundaries around your mourning.
4. Genuinely value your emotional well-being, and do things that nourish it.
This could mean watching a fun movie, eating a delicious meal, playing board games with a friend — whatever puts you in a good place. Allow yourself to experience joy, pleasure, peace, and other positive emotions if they come up.
Remember, self care isn’t selfish. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about what’s going on in the world. First of all, your joy matters, and your suffering matters. Secondly, you are more able to show up for others — including taking action on an issue, like gun safety, police brutality, etc. — when you are well cared for.
It’s okay if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the suffering and injustice in the world. Sometimes we just need to let ourselves feel those feelings, and be gentle with ourselves. But it’s also okay if you want to take steps to avoid being overcome with grief every time something awful happens in the world. You can make your emotional well-being a priority and be a caring person who works toward positive change in the world.
Suffering is not the only way to be a good person in difficult times.