The news is everywhere and most of it is traumatizing and overwhelming to consume. Recently when spending a day at home, I decided to let the news run while I did some chores around the house. It seemed that every 5 minutes “Breaking News” in bright red would flash across the screen sharing the latest ‘WTF’ moment creating anxiety that made me feel like I had to watch. In addition, for most of my career, I have worked with justice involving teens, young adults, and families which means there is always a chance I will see a person I know on the news. For 11 years, every time the headline read “Bronx teen involved in…” my heart would stop, anxiously awaiting and desperate for them to say a name or give some clue if I knew the person and which side of the story he or she was on.
That same cycle has become the norm for Black America with the terrifying and very real fear of what is going to show up in your newsfeed, pop up on your phone, sent in a group chat or be the headline story when you walk in or by an establishment with a TV. It’s everywhere and feels inescapable. Some argue that it shouldn’t be and that it is time for us to face the very real reality of what is going on. While I agree we can’t ignore it, we must find balance. An article published by PBS in 2016 stated:
“Research suggests that for people of color, frequent exposure to the shootings of Black people can have long-term mental health effects. According to Monnica Williams, Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Center for Mental Health Disparities at the University of Louisville, graphic videos (which she calls vicarious trauma) combined with lived experiences of racism, can create severe psychological problems reminiscent of post-traumatic stress syndrome.”
That is still and even more true in 2018. The old saying goes, consume too much of anything and it will be bad for you. The same goes for news and here are some ways to manage your consumptions and how to process:
Get rid of pop-ups
With pop-ups on your computer, smartwatch and phone it’s easy to get caught up in the trap of always being in the know. However, if you notice you are consistently anxious (tense, stomach in knots, very distracted and consumed by scary thoughts) when an alert pops up, consider taking the time to change your settings so only the most important notifications come through. Being in more control of how and when you consume news can help ease the pop-up trauma factor.
Be mindful of when you post or send tough to digest articles
Unless it’s a major world story, give until at least after 10am before sending or posting the latest statistics of how the world is going to end. I know we live in a time when being the first to report holds value, however starting the day off with troubling and triggering news sets the tone for the day and can be difficult to recover from if your body is not yet awake and prepared to process the information it is receiving.
Don’t give in to pressure to consume material you are not ready for
If you don’t want to watch, don’t. Ignore the calls to watch and read every article and video of every violent act against Black bodies. While it is important to be aware and honor these stories, we must also be aware of our capacity to feel and consume what we are receiving. Quickly reading an article that triggers trauma or kicks off a toxic cycle of anxious thoughts will cause more harm than good.
Take time to feel and name what you are reading
In therapy, a skill I have my clients work on is feeling their feelings. This means not rushing to get rid of negative feelings, but to sit and listen to what they are trying to tell you they need. If you can, give yourself space and time to sit with what you are feeling and name it. That’s it. There aren’t a lot of great answers to many of the questions we have for why things happen, none that will make you feel better at least, so we want to avoid the “why” for a bit and focus on what emotions the event caused. There is power in being able to sit with a feeling, acknowledge its presence and if necessary, decide on an action that is responsive rather than reactionary.
Consume positive, non-triggering material
Balance is a necessary and crucial part of consuming news, especially if you are in an environment where it is unavoidable, or your job requires you to be connected at all times. Despite what some may think, you can walk and chew gum at the same time. You can enjoy the most recent viral meme and be just as aware of what is going on in the real world without compromise. When feeling down or overwhelmed, amplify the more positive voices instead of letting them be drowned out by negative ones. Self-care and mindfulness are going to be crucial as we move through these dark and chaotic times. Fill your alerts, timelines and emails with bits of inspiration, goodness and light.
Beauties, are you feeling the effect of negative news? Take our poll below, we want to hear from you.
Stacey Younge, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and owner of Sixth Street Wellness. Her private practice focuses on utilizing both traditional therapy and tele-behaviorial health specializing in depression, anxiety and trauma. She is also the Senior Youth Clinician at a community mental health center in Harlem, New York specializing in adolescents and justice-involved youth. Stacey is a California native, runner and mental health advocate who is here to help you.