Safe ways to cope with confronting news

Safe ways to cope with confronting news

03 May 2022

With social media and 24-hour news coverage, the access to information has never been easier. Although this can make it hard to avoid potentially triggering stories, knowing how to safely cope with confronting news is important.

More recently, this can include news relating to the pandemic or the war in Ukraine, but as a veteran, the risk of encountering triggering stories can be extremely high.

The situation in Afghanistan, the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, and other confronting media surrounding the Australian Defence Force and veterans can be a genuine health risk to those who have been impacted by service.

How confronting news can damage your health

Being confronted with lots of negative news stories and articles from social media platforms can trigger a number of unhelpful responses.

It can lead us to feeling more anxious, afraid, and stressed which can trigger physical responses such as:

  • headaches
  • shortness of breath
  • increased heartbeat
  • changes in your digestive system that can cause stomach-aches, nausea, or heartburn
  • increased muscle tension leading to tension related aches and pains.

From a mental health perspective, spending increased time on social media and being exposed to confronting news articles can lead to changes in mood and make us feel more isolated and lonelier. This can increase the likelihood of experiencing symptoms of depression, further impacting on our psychological wellbeing.

For veterans and their families, the seriousness of these health impacts, over both the short and long-term, shouldn’t be ignored. It is important that stress is effectively managed so that physical and psychological impacts are minimised.

Coping strategies when dealing with triggering news

With potential triggers at our fingertips through our phones, computer, and TVs, it can be hard to understand how to safely cope with news at times.

It is important to think about what is possible for us to do in the face of confronting news.

There are many situations that we are unable to change or have any impact on and it is important to consider this when thinking about our response – which is something that we can control.

There are several strategies that might help:

  • Increasing self-care can help manage the stress of confronting news. This might mean focusing on taking care of your physical health, for example ensuring you are eating and sleeping well.

  • Practise mindfulness. This can help you stay more in the ‘present’ and focus on the things that are important in your life at this moment. Mindfulness can help reduce feelings of stress.

  • Take a break from news and social media, or at least consider the sources of news you are looking at and look for alternatives that contain factual and verified information rather than opinion.

  • It’s important to also focus on more positive good news stories and look for sources that provide balanced information.

  • Limit the amount of time that you spend on your phone and social media. Use the screen time limits on your device/s to remind you of the amount of time you have been scrolling. Don’t take your phone to bed and limit its use in the time before you go to sleep.

  • Seek support from a professional. Speaking with a skilled psychologist or counsellor can be useful to help manage any strong emotions triggered by what you’re seeing or reading on your screens and in the news.

  • In-person contact with a member of your support network can also help trigger the hormones that alleviate stress and help us feel happier. In some situations, it may be necessary to do this virtually, but this can still be a helpful way to connect when it isn’t possible to do so in-person.

If you are in crisis and need immediate support, contact 000 or attend your nearest hospital. For more crisis support contacts, click here.

Written by Clare Mitchell, Mates4Mates National Clinical Manager 

  • Mental health

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