London, Manchester, Berlin, Paris – terrorist attacks have been reported around the globe, and it’s hard not to feel helpless when the world feels like it’s falling apart.
Over the weekend, two people died in Ottawa – the nation’s capital – following a triple shooting in the city’s ByWard Market.
“Feeling upset when you see tragedy is a sign of emotional health, it’s not a bad thing. What we don’t want is feeling disconnected or apathetic – that’s a bigger risk factor,” Dr. Oren Amitay, a Toronto-based registered psychologist, told Global News.
“But our jobs are to make sure we’re looking after ourselves and we aren’t getting desensitized or pulling away because of what’s going on. You can feel helpless,” Amitay said.
Amitay and Dr. Shimi Kang, a Vancouver-based registered psychologist, look at different ways you can cope when you’re inundated with violent and tragic news around the world.
Awareness is good but details can be bad
For some people, details – especially violent or gruesome ones – can be traumatizing.
“It’s important to know what happened in the world but in some cases, details are not a good idea. You don’t have to listen to the gunfire or watch the videos of a mom crying saying her son was shot if it’s going to be distressing or it’s a trigger,” Amitay said.
“This is especially true for young children so be careful when watching the news with them so that they do not see or hear anything that can be traumatizing,” Kang said.
You need to be mindful of how many details you can handle.
Try to balance out the news
You could be fixated on terrorist attacks, vicious crime or the fallout from natural disasters but try to make sure you’re weaving in good news stories, in the world and in your personal life.
“Yes there is a lot of bad news lately but there is also good news that is never reported. All those wonderful healthy babies being born, young minds graduating, people marrying, retiring, etc. Try to balance out some bad news with good,” Kang said.
“There is a lot of tension in the world right now, however, there is also a lot of good in the world right now,” she said.
Allow breaks from the story
If it means you need to change the channel after watching the nightly news, or you have to pull away from watching live updates on your phone, give yourself and your family a break, the experts say.
“It is important to not put your head in the sand and pretend nothing is going on but it is also important to take a break from the news cycle. It’s OK to not listen to the news one day or talk about it at dinner again,” Kang said.
Ideally, you shouldn’t be keeping the TV on with an endless loop replaying heartbreaking interviews or listening to it non-stop on the radio. If you need to, plan news free days or conversations to help get a break from it all, they suggest.
Have faith, she suggests. Depending on your spiritual beliefs, you could be going to church to say a prayer, or you could be signing a petition to try to enforce change. You could donate clothes or food to a local food bank to help others.
“Send good energy out into the world, whatever you feel would be proactive,” Kang said.
Talk to someone about it
Don’t turn away from your feelings. It’s OK to feel upset with what’s going on and it’s very likely your family members or peers are feeling the same way.
“It’s good when we feel emotional for other people and when we care about the world we live in. It’s a symbol of connectedness, something beyond ourselves and a greater society and community,” Kang said.
Use these moments to catch up with friends or other loved ones, let them know how you may be feeling. It could be a good opportunity to touch base with your friends and family by setting up a phone call, a Skype video chat or getting a coffee in person.