You’ve got a lot going on, and the constant negative drumbeat from the news, social media, and more can cause stress and anxiety. It’s not easy to shut out all the noise. Every time you turn on the radio or TV you hear about another act of violence, economic uncertainty, and generally negative things. The world is becoming even more frightening.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million adults (18% of the population), according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Women are more likely to experience anxiety than men, and often feel the most impacted by negative news and stories. In the digital age of social media and lightning speed transmissions of information, it’s easy to see how the woes of the world are having a more detrimental effect on our mental health than ever before.
The effects of anxiety don’t stop with adults. 25% of children in their teenage years (13 to 18) have a lifetime prevalence of an anxiety disorder. They are not immune to the constant flow of information, and their connectivity to current events and the conversations around them also leave them susceptible for unnecessary stress. As a parent, your reaction and stress levels to negative news and tragic events sets the tone for your children. The look to you as a role model to determine how they should feel about a situation. This responsibility can lead to even more stress and a seemingly unstoppable downward spiral.
Should you go completely off the grid, cutting off your access to information so you are not faced with the “world’s problems?” Absolutely not. But there are ways you can manage your own reactions, thoughts, feelings, and anxieties in relation to world events.
Yes, we are all citizens of the world, but you alone can’t solve the problems. It is not your responsibility to figure out why bad things happen or how they could have been prevented. Ask yourself one time, “how can I solve this problem?” Think about how you would implement your plan, and if it’s not realistic or rational, you have to move on. These thoughts will continue to preoccupy you and flood your mind as long as you let them. Try letting it go.
If you know you’re susceptible to anxious thoughts when reading the news or surfing social media, be strategic about what you look at. Unfollow major news sources so they aren’t automatically pulled into your feed. When you’re ready to read about what’s happening in the world, you can choose to visit those pages. Set aside time to read when you can also dedicate a few minutes afterwards to calm down, reflect, and close your thoughts.
Exercise is one of the best ways to distract your thoughts and calm your nerves. Take a walk with a friend, play a game with your kids, or go on a nice long bike ride. Focus on the activity you’re doing in the moment, instead of the thoughts racing through your head. Keep at it long enough and those thoughts will dissipate.
Write it Out
If you can’t shake your worries, try writing down your thoughts exactly as they are. This exercise releases them from your conscious thoughts and is also therapeutic. Talking with your friends or family can also help, but you should try to be careful about how you’re portraying your thoughts around children. As mentioned above, kids look to parents and adults for guidance on how to react to a situation. If you’re anxious, they’ll feel the same thing. Coping with your own anxiety first can help your children learn how to cope and move on in stressful situations.
Before you saw the news, you had no idea what was going to happen. The only moments you can base your worries on are those that have happened in the past. They shape your frame of mind towards the future. But you have no control over what happens next. So accept that you can only know what happened before and what’s happening now, and live in the present.
As you reflect on past events, try to focus on two positive things for every negative event that has taken place. Remember, there are good things that happen in the world, too.