"What would happen if you DIDN'T click on that link...?" Emotional safety in challenging times

Published: 14 November 2023

As many of us struggle to manage our feelings about both world events and personal adversity, Mental Health and Wellbeing's Suzy Syrett shares her strategies for minimising distress and avoiding being overwhelmed...

Find out how Mental Health and Wellbeing researcher Suzy Syrett manages her feelings about distressing current events and creates conditions that help to keep her safe from being overwhelmed...

Photo of a cat reclining on a sofa

Everywhere we turn just now seems to be chock full of voices – the internet, papers, radio, TV etc – telling us how awful and doomed humankind is, how destruction awaits and how terrified we should be all the time too.

The challenge here is finding a way to stay informed about current events but, at the same time, keep yourself safe so you can fully function and enjoy things as you go about your daily life. If this feels familiar then please know you’re not alone, and the reason I'm writing this piece is that this is an area of self-care that I've had to work on of late. I’ve come up with two strategies that, combined, help me with this issue and, if this approach helps anyone else even a smidge, then it feels like one worth sharing too.

Strategy #1

Spending a bit of time figuring out which "delivery systems" are the least anxiety loaded for you is time well spent. And especially so if a total news/media blackout might bring its own issues.

For example, I realised that for me, TV news raises all kinds of emotions as I react not just to the news stories but individual reporter’s styles, biases I pick up or imagine, and sometimes even the order the stories are delivered in! Radio or podcasts affect me the same way too.

So instead, I've found selecting articles in a palatable news app (The Guardian for me) means I can pick and choose not just what to read, but when and in what order. Or I can just check the headlines and then decide if getting more detail is a good idea or a bad one depending on how I’m doing in my head at that time.

Strategy #2

Imagine that your head is your "home", and as such it has a big, solid front door. This means it’s you who gets to decide who gets past the front door, be that news stories/world leaders/politics/etc or heck, even kitten videos on YouTube. That is your power. Which, when you think of the awful feelings of impotence that often accompany terrible news content, is a refreshing change, because it doesn’t matter how loudly, persistently or frighteningly any of those may be knocking: it’s you who decides whether they gain entry or not.

And, speaking of power, the other power I have is over my own smaller world, which focuses on how my husband and my cat are doing. Me, Mich and Ripley. Their wellbeing and how much they know they’re loved is something I can and do impact on. Keeping my head free of additional news related stress is part of maintaining not just my wellbeing and anxiety levels, but theirs too.

Let me leave you with a final thought:

What would happen to the world if you decided to say, turn off the TV or not click on that link? My sense is the world wouldn't change but there's a chance, maybe a tiny one but a chance nonetheless, that you might start to feel less overwhelmed and burdened by it.

Staying abreast of current affairs is important, yes, but doing so in a way that is safe and emotionally manageable for you feels really important too.

Suzy Syrett
Research Assistant/Service User Researcher (Mental Health and Wellbeing)

We are very grateful to Suzy for taking the time to share her experiences and insights, and for modelling openness about struggles and challenges. Read more from Suzy in HAWKEYE... ("Im not sure of this world I'm working in" A lockdown reflection)

UofG health and wellbeing hub (staff)

UofG safety, health and wellbeing (students)

First published: 14 November 2023