We are constantly bombarded by information and images from the world around us. While some of these may be helpful and inspiring, others may cause increases in negative emotions (e.g., stress, depressed mood). Images of violence may be particularly harmful, but exposure to angry discourse or rhetoric can be dangerous as well. Warning signs that you may be suffering as a result of media exposure include, but are not limited to, feeling overwhelmed, angry, hopeless, worried, disheartened, sad, or stressed. So what do you do if you notice this pattern?
1) Take a "media vacation" for a few days or even weeks. This allows your mind to stay in the present moment in the immediate world around you. If you're truly worried about missing something monumental, ask a friend or family member to notify you of any emergencies that would directly impact your life.
2) When you return to using media, choose one or two topics to follow. Try to avoid stories about other topics. Meanwhile, figure out how you can actively involve yourself in changing things in that area - participate in rallies, volunteer with an agency promoting justice or serving victims, etc. This can feel empowering and reduce feelings of hopelessness.
3) Failing to notice the good and focusing too heavily on the bad can lead to depression, so be sure to take note of the positives in your community. This may occur in simple forms, such as daily acts of service between individuals or in more structured ways, such as organizations that work to promote social justice.
If at any point, you begin experiencing levels of anxiety or depression that are extremely distressing or interfere with your ability to accomplish daily tasks, be sure to contact a professional mental health provider.
Good luck navigating the world around you!