Taking Care of Yourself After Hearing Traumatic News

July 14th, 2020

We live in the age of information. Staying up to date with current news and events has never been easier. We can choose where, what, and who we get our information from with just a few strokes of our fingertips. This level of power is incredibly beneficial for any person to have and allows us to answer any questions we have in an instant.

Just like there are mass amounts of good information, there are also mass amounts of bad or depressing information. Along with the toils of our personal lives and families, we have to deal with a constant flow of negative news that can sometimes do more harm than good by knowing. If you find yourself becoming overburdened with traumatic news and events, there are steps you can take in order to cope a little better. During both COVID-19 and this very uncertain political period, everyone can benefit at least a little knowing how to take care of themselves.

How Trauma Changes Us

Before we recommend techniques to help with traumatic information, it’s crucial to understand how we respond to it. You may be suffering from “over information” already and might not even be aware!

Without undermining what people suffering from PTSD are going through, it is possible to experience temporary symptoms of the disorder when enough trauma is present. While some handle it better than others, it’s common for many to experience symptoms such as stress, frequent change in mood, having a hard time staying focused, panic attacks, and more. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms commonly and are not entirely sure as to why, it may be worth it to consider the possibility of overexposure to trauma as a potential source. 

How to Self Care After Experiencing Traumatic News

Your response to the stress that follows trauma can help regulate the worsening of symptoms. We’ll never be able to fully control how we react, but we can at least keep it to a minimum.

Acknowledge What You Just Learned. This process is a given for some people, but others who aren’t as in touch with their emotions might struggle with this step a little more. We must understand when the news has affected us, as infallible as we like to see ourselves. The process of self-care requires an understanding that there is something that needs to be taken care of in the first place.

Start by re-examining your intake. Change in media consumption might be one of the most challenging things to try and change for many. It can simultaneously be one of the most impactful changes you can make as well. It’s important to stay up to date on the news, especially when it is as urgent as coronavirus for example. Still, there is a line you should be sure to draw. When it comes to your health, it’s okay to take a break from reading about recent developments. Take some time to work on yourself and pay close attention again when you’ve had some recovery time.

Where possible, you can also consider removing a particular source of information entirely. Does a specific person or page you follow on Facebook exclusively post about stressful or hurtful things? So long as you don’t consider the information vital, you might be able to go without it.

Finally, there are some smaller steps you can take as well if a break isn’t your choice way to go right now. You can limit things that grab your attention like your email inbox or phone push notifications, for example. Timing can be a huge factor as well. If you’re having trouble sleeping or feel particularly awful in the morning, try limiting your info and news consumption to just the afternoon. Give yourself some time to digest it.

Don’t internalize your trauma. Talk to someone about it, anyone who might listen. They might share the same problem as you, or at least can relate more than you might think. When you speak to someone who will listen, you can find a level of validation that wasn’t there before. When you choose to internalize trauma, it can sometimes become worse and possibly manifest itself in negative ways (refer back to the symptoms of PTSD we discussed earlier).

If you have the means, therapy is a good place to do this too. A therapist will help you find how to best treat your specific situation, more so than any blog post can. While we have to hold recommended treatment to a very general level, a therapist can help diagnose what might be the most effective change for you personally. 

Understand what you’re most sensitive to. AKA, be aware of your triggers. If you’re mindful of what is more upsetting to you, maybe you can be a little more selective of content that you consume. For example, perhaps you can handle news and development related to the coronavirus, but news about social rights and movements is more challenging to keep up with. It’s okay in this case to regulate one but not the other. It’s good to stay on pulse when you can about traumatic information so long as it’s not damaging your mental health.

A final important note: if you are experiencing extreme thoughts of depression or suicide, seek help with a professional immediately with a trained professional or call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone, and you deserve support, no matter the reason.