As responsible citizens, we like to watch the news, but the stress of pandemics, racism, protests that can spark looting or tear-gassing, and an ugly election season makes it a stressful experience.
We turn the news on each evening or read it in papers, magazines or websites. Meanwhile, the feelings that wash over us at the sight of a police officer kneeling on a man’s neck or hundreds waiting in line for free food fester inside. If not processed, they can fuel emotional reactions like anxiety and depression, as well as physical symptoms such as trouble sleeping, headaches and racing thoughts.
An American Psychiatric Association survey recently revealed that 66 percent of Americans are worried about the nation’s future and 57 percent are stressed about today’s political climate.
“There’s so much noise out there and there’s some fatigue that goes along with it. People are tuning out as a coping mechanism,” said Dr. Anthony Ng, medical director of Hartford HealthCare’s Behavioral Health Network in Eastern Connecticut and a national expert on psychiatric emergencies and mass shootings. “If you react to all these things, you might lose your mind. You have to tune out some of the bad news out there (because) it takes a toll on you.”
You can do this in a variety of ways, including:
- Taking a break. Simply turn off your devices, whether it’s for an evening, a day or longer to flush your system of news overload. If that seems impossible, try setting blocks of no more than an hour once or twice a day to check the news and social media.
- Distracting yourself. Sidestep the anxiety that leaves you with a sour stomach or muscle knots across your shoulders by finding something else to do. Go outside for a bike ride, scrub the kitchen counters to a shine or make a snack to savor. These distractions will help you regulate your emotions and your body’s reaction to them.
- Getting involved. If a certain social issue is important to you, find a group supporting that issue and find out how you can help. Actively addressing your concerns is less stressful than feeling helpless about them.
- Calming yourself. Create a sense of peace in your space with music, the scent of a nice candle or pretty flowers. Your mind and body need calmness to feel restored.
- Connecting with a friend. Chatting, via Facetime or Zoom, or in person when possible is an instant boost to your spirits. In this time of self-isolation, even penning a note to someone is a great way to connect and share.
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, the BHN has a 24/7 hotline with clinicians who can help. Call 833.621.0600.
The Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network is now scheduling virtual-health visits for mental health and addiction services. Call your provider for details. New patients can schedule a virtual visit by calling 1.888.984.2408.
For more information on the programs and services available through the Behavioral Health Network, click here.
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