Regulating distress

Good people become upset when they see others suffering. Intuitive people literally feel it.


Bad news stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system, triggering rapid heart rate, headache, nausea and other icky symptoms.


Stress hormones are released when we see an injustice in the world. This is designed to give us focus and increased energy – fuel - to take a stand verbally or physically against the injustice. When we speak up or march or write a letter, we burn that fuel which then dissipates.


The problem with being fed so much detail in real time on the war in Ukraine is that it causes us stress but we don’t have an opportunity to express it. So it festers in us, swelling with each graphic news reel or social media update.


The World Health Organization has found that news coverage can increase distress and anxiety already caused by major crises. Research published in the British Journal of Psychology found that just 14 minutes of negative news cycles caused a deterioration in mood into sadness and anxiety.


Some tips to regulate this:


1. It’s not ‘news’ if you’ve already seen the clip. Once is enough. When you see it repeating turn it off. Otherwise you are embedding the stress reaction by repetition.

2. Balance your daily intake of bad news with equal amounts of fun. It’s not disloyal or uncaring to watch a comedy or switch off. You are one human. You can’t take on responsibility for the happiness of the whole world.

3. Allocate ‘worry time’ (but not near bedtime) and when the time’s up switch it off. Go and do something else.

4. Do one thing that’s within your control. It might be sharing a positive news story or donating to the reputable aid agencies. Light a candle and pray for those suffering. Be kind to someone today and visualise that kindness stretching across and impacting the victims of war. Donate or help out at the goods collection points.

5. My tips – I often only check the headlines, particularly if I feel low in energy. The headline updates me. The additional graphic details are of no benefit to me. I only use reputable news sources online. I train my social media feeds by scrolling right past anything distressing or by unfollowing those accounts. I'm not oblivious - I know what's happening and I do what I can. Immersing myself in despair is no good to them or me.


Until next time, mind your mind – it’s precious and worth protecting.


All the best,


Lisa.

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