During times of crisis, many of us cannot help but keep our eyes glued on the latest updates, and share or engage with the content we see online as a sign of support. However, it is not uncommon for the information to feel overwhelming or damaging to our mental health. Know that this is normal, as this content can be a lot for anyone to process. It is important to still care for yourself during times of crisis. Read below for our take on how to take care of your mental health during times of crisis.
Be proactive in protecting your mental health
Take care of the basics
Nutrition, water intake, fresh air, and a clean environment are the major tenets of self-care. During times of crisis, self-care is critical. Here is a refresher on the basics:
- Ensure that you are eating enough, and aim for nutritious meals when you can
- Stay hydrated, remember to drink water throughout the day
- Try to get fresh air and sunlight at least once in the day
- Keep a system that works best for you when it comes to home maintenance and personal hygiene
Know that it’s okay to take a break
You aren’t any less of an ally if you need to take a break from explicit or intense content. Your time spent on social media does not reflect how deeply you care for others. You may experience feelings of guilt during this time for needing to take a break from online content - know that times of crisis are beyond your control, and it is normal for this news to be distressing.
Taking breaks can take a variety of forms.
- Putting your phone on Do Not Disturb
- Turning off notifications
- Muting or blocking accounts
- Setting timers in place for app use
- Deleting certain apps on your phone
Be mindful that much of the content you see online is designed to incite strong emotions
Being informed about the world's issues is essential, but constantly bombarding yourself with negative news can increase anxiety. Set boundaries for your media consumption and choose trusted sources that provide balanced perspectives. Unfortunately, sometimes the coverage we come across is not made purely for the purpose of sharing information. Sometimes the intention behind a post, story, or article is not in good faith. Misinformation can and does occur. If and when you feel ready to log back on, consider using a fact checker. UC Berkley compiled a list of fact-checkers and information on determining the legitimacy of your news source.
Approaching online content mindfully is a wise choice. Being thoughtful and careful to read and share information that is accurate, with a calm state of mind is a great approach to take. Not only are you limiting the spread of misinformation, but you are also being considerate of your own well-being and others.
Find other ways to show your support
It is commendable to want to support a cause close to your heart. Thankfully, this does not mean that you have to sacrifice your mental health to do so. Your support can be most impactful when you are well taken care of.
Small acts of kindness go a long way in daily life. Remember, virtually everyone is also taking in this content. During a crisis, emotions run high, and many feel on alert. A simple smile to a stranger or holding the door for the person behind you serves as microcurrents of goodwill that can go far to spread kindness. The American Psychiatric Association reports that small acts of kindness can help reduce anxiety and depression. Some powerful acts of kindness they encourage are:
- Give others the benefit of the doubt
- Text someone a positive message
- Drink a glass of water
- Leave encouraging sticky notes in a public space
- Support a locally-owned business
Feeling inspired? The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has published a list of kindness ideas for you to try today. Note that small acts of kindness can be towards yourself as well. During times of crisis, both self and community care go a long way.
Use your resources
Hopelessness is not uncommon when constantly faced with coverage of a global crisis. Your actions, no matter how small, can make a difference. Some may find it comforting to channel their feelings of worry or despair into action. If you find it beneficial to become involved in a cause of your choosing, here are some ways you can use your resources:
- Donate to a cause of your choice
- Volunteer your time
- Become involved in local organizations
Use another channel to express your feelings
When we are inundated with content containing violence, graphic content, or disturbing news, we may need an outlet to express our heartbreak or shock. There are ways to let those feelings out that can even serve as gentle reminders for others to also care for themselves, such as:
- Writing poetry
- Making art
- Hosting a small gathering
- Doing something with your hands
Remember, strong emotions show that you care. It is deeply important that you take care of your emotional health during times of crisis. Without noticing, our emotions may wear on us, causing for more intense issues along the way.
Check-in with yourself regularly
The energy of the world can feel very heavy, so it is important to be frank with yourself about how you are coping. In times of crisis, our mental health can wildly vary.
- Use journal prompts as a tool to understand your own thoughts and feelings.
- Ask yourself these five questions
- Practice moments of mindfulness throughout the day
Remember Your Strengths
Know that you've faced challenges in the past and have come through them. While global crises are daunting, your own resilience and ability to adapt are strengths that will help you navigate these uncertain times.
Remember it’s okay to feel angry, upset, or lost
It’s okay to not be okay. If you are having a hard time coping with distressing news, that is perfectly normal. Allow yourself to experience a range of emotions and be gentle with yourself. Your wellness is important, but that does not mean that you have to put on a happy face all the time. There's strength in acknowledging when you're not okay. You don't have to be strong all the time. Seeking help or sharing your feelings with someone you trust is a sign of courage, not weakness.
Connect with your community
We are not facing this alone. Check in with your loved ones, be honest about how you are doing, and allow them to do the same. In times of crisis, people often come together to support one another. This sense of community and solidarity can be a source of strength and comfort.
Don't hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or mental health professionals if you're struggling with anxiety or worry related to global or personal crises. Talking to someone about your concerns can be incredibly reassuring.
Crises, especially on a large scale, often appear insurmountable, but history shows that humanity has overcome significant challenges. Progress may be slow, but positive change is possible. Take care of yourself and remember that you are not alone.
We want to leave you with these six takeaways on caring for your mental health during crisis:
- You cannot pour from an empty cup, protecting your mental health is not selfish
- Taking social media breaks is not a reason to feel guilty
- There are other ways to show your support that don’t have to be at the expense of your mental well-being
- Find an outlet to express difficult feelings
- Do regular check-ins with yourself
- Connect with your community
We invite you to join our Insiders Community on Facebook. Share personal stories, have real conversations about mental wellness, and connect with the team at ITO.