How to Cope with Upsetting World Events

by | 13 Jan 2021 | Coping Strategies, Mental Fitness

Right now, there is no doubt that wherever you are – you’re being bombarded with photos of and articles from upsetting world events. The recent talk of the Capital Hill Riot has left many of us feeling a wide range of emotions; frustration, anger, fear, disappointment… even hopelessness.

And it’s understandable to feel that way. The Capitol Hill Riot, and other unsettling world events, result in such strong emotions because psychologically, they make us feel a loss of control. We see these horrible events on the news, and can feel shocked about what the world has come to.

But even during periods of time that seem so dark, we must not lose sight of all the good that is happening. It may be difficult to see, but the world is getting better with every passing day. If you take the time to look, there is every reason to feel better about our world. Worldwide poverty, violence, and conflict are declining compared to previous years. Simultaneously, health, equality, diversity, freedom, and happiness around the world are increasing yearly.

We may find it hard to focus on the joyous things happening worldwide for several reasons. The news covers troublesome events that are taking place to keep us informed. And even when they present good news, our brains are, unfortunately, hardwired to focus on possible problems. We are biologically made to look for threats, calculate risks, and prepare for any danger on the horizon.

The good news is, you can see the negativity, you can feel that loss of control… but you can choose not to dwell on it. In fact, there are many ways you can regain your sense of control and optimism even when events like COVID or the Capitol Hill Riots are taking place.

Let’s take a look at a few strategies that you can integrate into your day to help you cope with upsetting world events.

Accept that you can’t fix the world… but you can make a difference

A common problem that many of us have is that we spend so much time worrying, stressing and getting upset about things we can’t even change. This can lead to a vicious cycle where we feel a hopeless lack of control.

The first thing you can do is to accept and come to terms with the fact that you simply can’t do anything about what is happening most of the time. This isn’t easy and it takes some effort to let go and accept that you can’t control what you can’t control.

The next thing you can do is to think of small actions you can take to change the world in a positive way. What is going on in the world that you can do something about, however small?

If you’re passionate about homelessness, how about stopping and having a chat with someone who is homeless? Or how about volunteering at a local shelter where you’ll meet a bunch of like minded people? If you’re passionate about the environment, why not join an environmental group making changes in your local community?

By doing something for a cause you’re passionate about, you’ll feel way better as you’ll know you are in control and making a positive contribution.

Curb the habit of looking at your phone

It’s no secret that our phones have become vital everyday tools, but they also lead to a lot of stress, disconnection, and frustration. Every time you scroll through the news, you’re exposing yourself to negative thoughts that lead to negative emotions down the track. Similarly with social media, continuously seeing a fake view of the world only serves to undermine our own sense of self.

Rather than scrolling through social media and soaking in the charged news and negativity, instead, take the time to do something more positive. Listen to some music, read a fiction novel, do some doodling, go for a walk, or even simply take some time to do nothing and give yourself complete rest. Even five minutes doing any of these things will help charge your batteries rather than deplete them.

If you can, try removing the apps from your phone and access your social media through a device you use less frequently. This can help to break the habit of automatically scrolling.

Be kinder to yourself and to others

So we’ve already discussed how the situation in Capitol Hill and the pandemic can be creating all kinds of negative feelings. Just experiencing these feelings, especially if they are new to you, can be unsettling in itself and make you feel even worse.

It is important to acknowledge that having these feelings and emotions at a time like this is completely normal. As you’re experiencing whatever emotion you’re feeling, try to stand back and acknowledge the emotion as if you were an observer of your own mind. Say to yourself in your mind what emotions you’re observing, for example “I’m a bit angry, there’s a touch of sadness, oh and some guilt – that’s interesting”. It may sound a little weird to do this but it’s a really good way of acknowledging what you’re feeling and accepting it as normal.

It’s also really important not to try and push your difficult feelings away and replace them with positive thinking. This is an unhealthy coping strategy. Pushing your difficult feelings away just buries them deeper where they can ferment and become stronger.

Also acknowledge that other people around you may also be going through their own mix of emotions and this may be altering their behaviour. Some of them may act in a way that is out of character and maybe hurtful. Use your awareness to have compassion for others. This is a great time to connect with people and ask them how they are feeling and see how you can help them.

So, in summary, the emotions you’re feeling as you experience unsettling world events are normal. Acknowledge your feelings as such, limit your phone use and do something small to play your part in doing some good. You can also join the Akimbo Movement and start taking steps to become more mentally healthy.