National and international tragedies seem to be occurring more often than not lately, and each one feels just as heart-wrenchingly painful as the last. In many cases, these tragedies stir up so many powerful emotions: helplessness, hopelessness, and depression chief among them. It can be incredibly difficult to deal with the horrors of the world, especially for those who want to be informed, or who suffer from mental illness. While self-care may be the furthest thing from our minds, it can often be one of the most important factors to consider.
Sometimes, prioritizing self-care can feel selfish or irresponsible, but is vital to your overall wellbeing. I was once given a very valuable piece of advice, that you can't be the best friend or parent or loved one or advocate if you don't allow yourself a brief period of time to take care of yourself first. As the saying goes, you can't pour from an empty cup, making caring for yourself an important thing to keep in mind, especially for those with big hearts. In that light, here are a few self-care tips to practice in times of tragedy.
Pay Attention To Your Own Needs
Listen to yourself, and follow your own cues. For some people, knowledge is power and in terrifying times they find comfort in learning all they can. Be cautious about this approach, however, and walk away when you feel that things are getting too much. Learn about your triggers and your limits, and understand that it's okay to turn off the computer when you begin to feel things a bit too deeply. It's okay to cry at tragedy, but it's also okay to read a book, mediate, or exercise instead of reading every single article released about it.
Other people may find it is a better approach to walk away, regroup, rethink, and approach the tragedy with a clear mind before reading anything further about it. Don't feel guilty if this is what you need to do - approaching a situation with a clear mind is never a bad thing.
The Mute Button Is Your Friend
Not everyone on your Facebook or Twitter feed will feel the same way that you do about a particular event. While there is nothing wrong with exposing yourself to a variety of different opinions, if you feel that you are being affected quite deeply by any particular world event, mute those whose posts cause you to feel negatively. Those individuals won't know they are being muted, and when things calm down and you feel like you can reintegrate with social media once more, you can unmute them to once again see their posts show up on your newsfeed.
1. Go to your friend's profile;
2. Hover your mouse over the "following" button on the top of their page;
3. Click "unfollow";
4. Repeat when you're ready to see their posts again, only this time click "follow" instead of "unfollow".
1. Go to the profile you wish to mute;
2. Click the gear beside "following";
3. Click "mute";
4. Repeat when you're ready to see their tweets again, only this time click "unmute" instead of "mute".
Surround Yourself With Like-Minded Support
In tragic times, it can help to find a community of like-minded individuals to help get you through a particularly rough period. As mentioned, there is nothing wrong with being friend with and exposing yourself to varying opinions on any given topic, but when you are affected by a world event, it's a good time to surround yourself with community. These individuals can help you understand what you are going through, sort out the difficult emotions, and find a way to channel that energy into something positive in a way that those who may take an opposing view might not be able to at the moment. A supportive community can be a safe space, a space where you are allowed to just feel how you feel without judgement or pressure, and where you can get advice about how to move forward.
Write, Reflect, Or Distract
If you think it will help, take some time and journal about your feelings surrounding the tragedy. You may find that getting your thoughts down on paper helps you deal with them in a better and easier way than if you had kept them inside. Reflecting on a tragedy may also help you figure out why it is so troublesome to you in a way that helps you deal with those emotions.
Likewise, distraction may be the way to go over reflection. If this is the case for you, try and pick something calming and unrelated to the event. Mindfulness colouring books are an incredible way to distract yourself, as is meditation, yoga, or exercising. Try a combination of all those methods, plus your other favourite ways to distract yourself when you need to take your mind off of something, in order to help give yourself time and space to deal with these particularly tragic world events.
Look For The Love
There is a famous Mr. Rogers quote that goes around social media whenever there is a tragedy, in which he speaks of looking for the helpers. This is a fantastic piece of advice. The helpers can help you see that there isn't only horrible things in the world, that there are good people too. Regardless of the horrific event, there have always been people around who want to help. Seeing those individuals driven to action can often help restore our faith in humanity, and can ease the inner turmoil being affected by an international tragedy can cause.
Taking this one step further, I'd encourage you to look for the love in unrelated places. Perhaps you are currently taking a step back from that particular event, or maybe you've been a support worker or advocate and need space for yourself. In those cases, look for the love wherever you can find it. Maybe it's an unrelated Facebook feed where you see two friends bond over the love of the same musical artist, or when you're out walking and two strangers happen to adore the same dog walking down the road, or at the pub and you happen to witness a cute couple's first date. Wherever you can find it, look for the love. I promise, it is everywhere, and those brief moments can help ease your pain.
Seek Professional Help
If the pain lasts for a longer period of time than you feel is right for you, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Counsellors, crisis lines, psychiatrists, and your family doctor can all help you address your emotions about a tragedy. There's no harm in speaking to any one of these individuals about how you are feeling. You may even find that it's helpful.
Don't Feel Guilty
Tragedy affects us all in drastically different ways. Even if you aren't personally affected, even if you didn't know any of the victims or had even visited that particular location before, it's okay to feel a deep pain about that event. Some mental illnesses are triggered by world tragedies, some people have well-developed senses of empathy, and some people can't stand to see other people suffering. There are a number of different reasons why this particular event may be causing you so much pain, none of which amount to you needing to be guilty for feeling how you feel.