During a time when the world is grappling with the complexities of political and social unrest, it can be extremely difficult to find a balance between staying informed or active and protecting your mental health. Ears for Peers recognizes the toll that these current events can have on people and is a resource for all Tufts students. Whether it be talking through issues specific to being on a college campus right now, discussing the emotional strain of news headlines, or brainstorming ways to cope with anxiety surrounding these topics, we are here to support you. Feel free to give us a call at 617-627-3888 any night from 7 pm-7 am to chat! In the meantime, here are a few tips for navigating self-care in today’s tumultuous environment.
Tip #1: Understand that you are not alone
Understanding the support networks that you have and want to engage in is particularly relevant in the context of political unrest, where societal fractures and campus-specific divisions can amplify feelings of loneliness and isolation. Recognizing that others around you are going through similar thought processes and sharing concerns can create a sense of solidarity and comfort when leaning into these feelings. Whether it is grappling with the news headlines and information released or reflecting on the series of global events and their long-lasting impact, there is solace in recognizing the similarities between each person’s internal struggles and experiences at Tufts during this extremely dark time. We are all part of a broader community with shared concerns. Both online and on-campus communities are now more than ever crucial platforms for engaging in dialogue and immersing oneself in the difficulties of feeling out of control, hopeless, and distraught about what is going on in the Middle East and beyond. Activist groups, coalitions, and affinity spaces provide a community on campus for students to share their experiences, offer support, and navigate the challenges of being on a college campus right now. Online communities like Facebook groups, forums, discussion platforms, and social media accounts are also ways to feel close to people who also care about these issues, even if they are not all in close physical proximity. Actively seeking out these communities and building networks for these types of difficult discussions can be a way to take control over your political experience at Tufts and promote open and constructive dialogue. You are more in control of your experience than it may seem!
Tip #2: Media Overload? Setting Boundaries is self-care, not selfish.
Intentionally setting boundaries around your news and media consumption can be a meaningful form of self-care. Have you ever been checking a news article on your phone, and before you know it, you’ve read ten more, an hour has passed, and you feel much worse than before? You’re not alone. This is an experience that many of us can relate to, especially during times of global challenge. While technology provides us with the opportunity to constantly monitor world events, it is important to realize that over-engagement with news can have negative mental health consequences. Doomscrolling, headline anxiety, and headline stress disorder are all terms that have recently cropped up to describe symptoms of what Dr. Grant, Ph.D., has recently called “Media saturation overload.” And growing up as digital natives, we Gen Zers are even more susceptible to this phenomenon.
A first step to finding a personal balance can be by simply bringing attention to when you consume news and your subsequent emotions. If you have a habit of checking news updates in between classes, check in with yourself after. What feelings are coming up for you? How does it affect the rest of your day? Based on this information and personal reflection, you can start to develop a balance and plan that is most effective for you. A strategy some people find helpful is to set aside a certain amount of time per day to check news sources, e.g., 30 minutes after lunch. This way, you can ensure that you receive relevant updates while ensuring that checking the news does not become obsessive. A concern some people raise is that setting boundaries on news consumption can feel selfish. It is important to remember, however, that you can’t pour from an empty cup; if you are emotionally fatigued, it is challenging to respond to information productively. Being intentional about consuming news and media means you will be able to better process this information while also prioritizing your mental well-being.
Tip #3: Discovering Vital Outlets for Mental Well-being
With all the stressful things going on in the world, it’s important to have outlets to work through your emotions. One outlet that some people find helpful is journaling. Writing in a journal can help you organize your thoughts and pinpoint sources of stress, which can help you feel more at peace in your mind.
Journaling can take many shapes and forms—it doesn’t have to just be writing about the events of your day in a diary. One approach is stream-of-consciousness bullet-pointing, where you make a list of everything at the top of your mind. This can be helpful to get all the thoughts that might be swirling in your head down on paper so you can think through them more easily and decide what steps you want to take. Another kind of journaling is rage journaling, where you set a timer for two minutes and write down everything you’re feeling angry about. Anger can be a compelling emotion (see Audre Lorde’s essay “The Uses of Anger”), despite it sometimes being villainized by society. Rage journaling can help you connect with your anger and give you a feeling of catharsis. Another way to journal is to think through a difficult conversation you’re planning to have with someone. You can write down certain things you want to remember to bring up in the conversation or even write out how you want to express yourself. It’s important to remember that the actual conversation likely won’t go exactly as you planned, but this journaling method is helpful to feel more prepared going into an emotionally difficult situation. One more kind of journaling is gratitude journaling, where you write down people and things that you’re thankful for. This activity can help you look on the bright side and feel more positive about your life. Overall, there are lots of different ways to journal, so even if certain ones haven’t resonated with you in the past, there’s always a chance to try something new!
In addition to journaling, there are lots of other different outlets that you can use to deal with stress. One option is creating art! Even if you don’t feel like a creative person, it can feel liberating to doodle or create abstract art with pens and markers. Fiber arts like knitting, crochet, and embroidery can also be soothing because of their repetitive motions. Another idea of an outlet is physical activity. This could mean going to the gym, but it could also be taking a walk, following along to a yoga video in your room, or even just shaking it out. Physical activity, no matter how gentle, can feel like a great reset to your system and let you feel ready to continue with your day. Another outlet for dealing with stress is listening to music. Whether it’s listening to happy songs to pump up your mood or listening to sad songs to help you feel your feelings, music can be a great way to take your mind off of stressors and feel more connected to yourself and your surroundings. Another helpful outlet for any sort of feelings is talking to someone you trust, such as a friend, parent, or therapist. Like journaling, saying your feelings out loud can help you make sense of them and notice patterns. It can be scary to reach out to people and ask for help, but it often feels really good to grow connections with the people in your life who care about you and want to support you.
Self-care is not only a personal journey and responsibility but also a collective endeavor. By fostering a sense of community, setting boundaries, and finding outlets that work for you, we can learn to navigate the challenges and difficult emotions that may come up through a mental health lens.
“Media Overload Is Hurting Our Mental Health. Here Are Ways to Manage Headline Stress.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/monitor/2022/11/strain-media-overload.