Crying it out, self-care & silence… just a few of the ways I’ve been navigating all the sh**ty news in the world…
Working as a tv news anchor for over two decades, I have somehow learned to compartmentalize the stories I read out loud daily and avoid negative news overload. Friends and strangers have asked me how I do it on a regular basis. They will say things like, “I don’t watch the news. I don’t know how you do it.” One person even said recently, “If I had your job, I would be depressed all the time.” I totally understand. Sometimes, honestly, I don’t know how I do it either.
Most days, even on really bad news days, I am able to walk away not emotionally affected. I have taught myself to block out the negative images and personal stories. As a defense mechanism, I attempt to convince myself there’s no way this is all happening. Other days, the details of a random story will punch me in the face right out of the blue, and I won’t be able to let go of those emotions. There’s never any rhyme or reason, or time of day, or particular newscast. It’s like when you notice a tree on a street that you have walked by 100 times. You notice it for the first time even though it’s been there all along, blending into the background. The acknowledgment of a tree is beautiful, but for me, these news moments that “sneak up” can be very painful.
Suffering From Bad News Overload
The other night, after a very long and stressful day at work, I did what I knew I should not be doing. I turned to my phone out of habit. You know those nights when an hour passes and you don’t even know what you just read or looked at? I found myself drowning in images, posts, stories, and I slouched on the sofa in silence. The sun was setting and my heart hurt. I scrolled mindlessly through apps, photos, and websites, images of my Dad, who died last year and who I miss terribly. I focused on that for a while. Then there were more images of injured and homeless dogs on various shelter and rescue pages that I follow. To top it all off, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fires burning in California and Nevada; all the innocent animals who were likely dying or burned. This was the same week the Taliban had swiftly taken over Afghanistan. The images and stories of suffering there that we shared relentlessly on the airwaves were almost too much to handle.
Looking back, my brain was filled with way too much information and even though I knew I should put the phone down, I couldn’t. About 20 minutes before bed, I turned it off, took a shower, and made myself get in bed. One hour later, I was wide awake. I couldn’t stop thinking of everyone. Humanity. The tragedy. The destruction. The sad and desperate faces. The loneliness of it all felt overwhelming. That’s when the tears began to fall. I laid there in the silence of the night, my dog on the floor next to me, and I cried. Of course, I’ve cried before in bed. Don’t get me wrong. When my Dad died last year, I cried myself to bed every night and like many of you, I’m sure you have cried over a breakup or two. But that night was different, I wasn’t crying for me or my loss. I was grieving for humanity. I was crying tears of sadness for all the pain and suffering. It had piled on and it all came crashing down in that moment.
Many of my friends have shared with me lately that they too have had a hard time lately keeping their emotions and stress intact. Whether it’s the pressures of a job, or having lost a job. Maybe it’s family or the fear of the unknown future- Will things ever get back to normal? No one can answer those questions for us, but one thing I have learned, and I learned it late in life, is that we must take time to acknowledge our emotions. It does us no good to tuck them away.
Emotions like anger, sadness, confusion, disappointment, happiness, and even awe are vital to our existence. We experience hundreds of feelings during a day and sometimes there are too many to deal with. When those emotions go unprocessed, studies show they can make you feel overwhelmed and many times depressed.
I do not have the answers, but I do have some personal self-care ideas that I have incorporated into my life. I don’t do them all the time. Many times, I fail. But I have found that when I feel overwhelmed if I remember to turn to these self-care ideas and practices, the emotions begin to get processed and my joy for life shows up again. Taking the time to be kind to yourself through self-care is not selfish, it’s our way back to wellbeing.
1. Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries doesn’t mean you are blocking someone or something out of your life. What it means for me is that I choose to create space from a particular person or thing, just enough to make me feel sane. It’s easy for someone’s emotions or actions to have an impact on your own, and it can get to point where you begin to find yourself confused, having thoughts like: Are these my feelings or theirs? Why do I feel anxious or agitated when I am around that person?
Check in to see if your partner, co-worker, or friend’s energy or negative attitude is starting to affect your personal outlook. How do you feel when you are around them? I was impressed recently by a friend of mine who said she was taking time for her personal mental health. She said No to extra work opportunities (temporarily), and Yes to finding time for what makes her happy and calm. What my friend chose to do was simple. She decided “Enough is enough. I need a break.” She has learned to set boundaries from toxic people, the pressures of constant stimulation and work. I respect her for that.
Society often imposes pressure on us to the point that we feel guilty for even thinking of saying no to an opportunity or event. We have to remind ourselves that we are not going to miss anything worthwhile when we are burnt out and tired. There will be another party or social event in the future that we can enjoy to the fullest capacity. Choosing people in your life who understand your emotions and support your choices is crucial. A healthy support system is the key to tackling the tough times.
2. Forgive Yourself
When times get hard, especially when you have a bad breakup or lose a loved one, it is easy to blame yourself. You might find yourself asking, What did I do wrong? What could I have done to make the outcome different? Focusing on “what ifs” is dangerous. We have to accept that oftentimes, life events are completely out of our control. We have to simply accept that without turning the pain and blame in on ourselves.
I read a quote recently that said “We grieve the same way as we love…in our own individual way.” When you are mourning anything, the death of a loved one, a job, a lover, etc. allow yourself space and time to really mourn. Also, allow yourself permission to mourn in whatever way is best for you. There is no right or wrong way.
One of the best ways to get these thoughts off your mind is to write in a journal. Writing out your thoughts will help your brain to literally dump out the jumbled thoughts your mind has on repeat. Your journal entry is meant for you alone, and it doesn’t have to be perfectly written. It doesn’t even have to make total sense. You aren’t writing a novel. You are simply sharing your mixed up emotions and fears on paper. It’s as simple as that.
3. Spend Time Alone (In Silence)
We are all so ridiculously busy these days with work, family, errands, exercise, friends, social commitments, and/or our side hustles. Our commitments are never-ending and they likely mean we are always around at least one person or many more.
My question is: When was the last time you were alone with YOU? Time alone is rare and pretty powerful. I spend a lot of time alone, mainly because I don’t have children or a husband, and I have become very comfortable with the practice of silence. Have you? One of my best friends recently had the opportunity to stay at a friend’s amazing home in Colorado, alone. The beautiful house, fancy cars, and property were all available to her and her alone for days. It sounded like a dream come true for me, so I was surprised when she called me after one day and said, “I’m bored. I’m not sure if I can stay here. It’s just me and the dog.”
My friend and I have known each other since we were both 18. We are like sisters but in many ways, very different. I would cherish that alone time. She, on the other hand, wanted to cherish it, but from what I heard from her was that she wasn’t comfortable being by herself for longer than a day. (really being alone) So, what does that mean to you? Can you handle alone time? My friend is not the only one out there who struggles with solitude.
Studies show millions of people are afraid of being alone, especially women. What happens when you are alone? Is it too much silence for you? Not enough stimulation? Do emotions come up? What makes you uncomfortable? It’s not a judgment, just a few thoughts to ponder….If you can’t really get away from your every day life, try going on a solo walk or hike without a podcast or music. Walk in the silence. Take in what’s around you. You’ll be amazed at what you see and hear.
4. Ask for Help
This one is very difficult for me. If you are like me, you have learned to “handle it all on your own.” My thought was and still is sometimes, that I don’t want to bother others with my sh*t. They have their own problems to deal with, and I would just be a debbie-downer. But what I’ve learned through friends, family and some good self-help books is that there is no shame in asking for help when you are feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes just having someone to bounce your frustrations off of can help tremendously. People can’t help you if you don’t ask.
5. Express Your Emotions
If you are still not quite ready to share with others about your pain, problems, grief, or frustrations, that’s okay too. There are other self-care ideas and methods to let go and find a fix. I often turn to physical fitness when I am sad or feel overwhelmed. I put on my running shoes and hit the pavement instead of hitting the vodka bottle. There’s also art, music, yoga, singing, or simply snuggling with your dog. I also find that I will write about my feelings or create a blog post like this one. In fact, this article grew out of a painful personal experience. One life coach I knew once suggested that when people are feeling lonely or down, they should get a massage. The human touch is healing to the body and heart.
6. Be Kind to Others
If writing or running is not your thing, try performing a simple act of kindness. When we give back, volunteer, or help a stranger, our endorphins skyrocket. Studies show that being kind also boosts our serotonin which is the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being. Kindness towards others is also good for your heart.
7. Don’t Forget About You!
You may be suffering from a news overload. Instead of waking up and picking up you phone to scroll through Instagram, your work emails, or binge-read yourself into a bad news overload, try some silence. Lie in the bed for a moment and think of 10 things you are grateful for. You will be surprised how fast 10 can be achieved. I find doing this really helps me appreciate what is happening for me in the present moment and clears my head of future desires. Gratitude is one of the most powerful and effective self-care ideas.
Once you are up and moving around, try turning to the internet to find uplifting vibes. For example, at least twice a week while I apply my makeup in the morning, I look up “positive affirmation” videos on youtube. There are endless amounts of them and the best part, they are free. The practice is simple. All you have to do is play the video and listen to what is said. Positive affirmations, practiced regularly can begin to help our subconscious mind believe what we are saying and hearing- thoughts like I am enough. I am loved. I am successful. I am healthy. I am a magnet for money. I am happy. It works like a broken record repeating happy positive thoughts that your brain begins to accept. I always feel better after doing this, and even though sometimes it seems silly, I find it fun.
8. Try Something New
The best sleep I get is when I don’t look at my phone or the computer for at least an hour before I get in bed. I know you’ve heard it before that spending time scrolling through your phone reading and looking at images can stimulate your brain. That’s not a good place to be for a restful night’s sleep. I am trying my best to make this change. Lately, I set my alarm for the next day, and silence my phone. If I’m good, I’ll do some deep breathing or meditate (you can find guided meditations for free on Youtube!) I may also read one of the many books stacked on my dresser. Sometimes I’ll write in my journal as mentioned above. I do anything but watch tv, look at my phone, or scroll on the computer. And when I’m really good, I’ll just lie there with myself in the darkness and the silence and say, “Thank you for this bed. Thank you for my health. Thank you for my Mom and brother. Thank you for my life.”