Three tips to cope when the world feels like chaos

Three tips to cope when the world feels like chaos

In today’s world, it is difficult to turn on the TV or follow social media without news of tragedy. Being exposed to graphic violence and trying to make sense of the news cycle can cause feelings of distress, depression and a range of emotional health issues, according to one study.

The research analyzed 116 journalists to determine how their psychological health was affected by their exposure to disturbing images for prolonged periods of time.

They found that frequent exposure to images of great violence proved emotionally unsettling for a subset of journalists. And that stress can cause a host of health issues from high blood pressure, to panic attacks, nausea and muscle tension.The researchers hypothesized that reducing the frequency of exposure would be helpful in lessening those issues.

Dr. Chandra Vedak, a psychologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. agrees. “Let us take a break from the breaking news every once in a while,” says Dr. Vedak. “It is important to remember that our addiction to breaking news is giving us a very disproportionate view of reality. Do what lifts your spirit instead.”

So what can you do to cope in times of tragedy?

In a recent Time Magazine article, Dr. Joan Cook, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, offered these three tips:

  • You are not alone. Dr. Cook says it’s good to be reminded that it’s normal to feel hopeless about what’s happening around us. “We are emotional thermometers,” she says. “How can you not feel discouraged when you are watching and hearing what’s happening in our world?”
  • It is okay to tune it out. Being constantly connected is not always best for your mental health. Take a break, get some fresh air, walk, swim, play golf or engage in activities that force us to “be in the moment.”
  • Do things that make you feel healthy. “There will always be bad things happening, so have some activities planned that you are looking forward to. For example, I volunteer, and that makes me feel like I’m doing my part,” says Dr. Cook. “Try to stay grounded in finding meaning and purpose.”

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About the Author

Lisa O'Neil
Lisa O'Neil

Lisa O’Neil, health enews contributor, serves as Director of Public Affairs-Central Region for Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital. She enjoys spending time with her husband, three children and mini-golden doodle. In her spare time, you will most likely find her on the tennis court or on the back of her husband’s Harley, cruising the many scenic routes around the northwest suburbs.

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