Taking Care of Our Mental Health During Times of Global Conflict
With the tragic war occurring in Israel, we live in a time where now more than ever, we have access to images, videos, and sound bites of the war unfolding, as if we're there in real time. Staying informed of current events is important, but is there a limit? Are we created with the ability to constantly consume information about war on social media? What are the psychological implications? And why do we feel a sense of guilt for setting those limits with ourselves when we know people who are actually experiencing the war in real time can't escape it?
Let's explore some ways we can manage our social media usage responsibly during times of crisis while also taking care of our mental health.
1. Manage Screen Time & Set Boundaries
Boundaries are always a good idea with everything, including social media. When there are times of conflict and war, we have access to boots on the ground information at the tip of our fingers. We see the war unfolding in real time, and we may even come across pictures and videos of people dying.
This. Is. Traumatic.
When we're viewing these types of images and videos, we can develop what's called vicarious trauma, which is when we become traumatized learning about or watching horrific events through social media. Remember, trauma isn't what directly happens to a person; it's how a person experiences the event in their body.
We were not created with the ability to consistently consume this type of information, 24/7. Psychologically, we don't have the capacity to hold such intense horror. For the sake of our mental health, we have to take a break. Setting screen time limits, or even deactivating social media for a few days until your nervous system has regulated, is a great way to set boundaries. It doesn't mean you're choosing to remain ignorant. It means you're taking care of yourself. It's okay to take care of yourself in the midst of global trauma. You have responsibilities, duties, and people in your life you have to show up for, and that doesn't stop when there's a war unfolding halfway across the world. Know your limits, listen to your body, and do what you can to avoid traumatic information overload.
3. Verify Information
Social media does a great job at keeping us informed, but t can also keep us...misinformed. To slow down the spread of misinformation, ensure you're fact checking what you're reading and verify that information before sharing it on social media. There are numerous fact checking sites online.
When we're living in very sensitive times, especially when it involves a political aspect, it's important to avoid the spread of misinformation. Misinformation harms people.
3. Balance Awareness & Well-Being
This is one of the more important components to navigating social media during times of conflict. We want to stay informed and aware, but we also want to manage our mental health and well-being. It's normal for those who aren't directly involved in the war to feel a level of guilt about having the option to turn off their phone or choose not to look at what's happening.
There are ways for you to remain informed while also setting limits. Remember, we aren't created with the capacity to be able to constantly consume information, videos, and pictures of war. When we do this, we are causing psychological harm to ourselves. We don't need to choose to hurt our own well-being solely because others are suffering. The best way to enact change, make a difference, and care for those who are going through war is to take care of our mental health, because we'll then have the mental clarity, regulated nervous system, and capability to help.
4. Self Reflection & Emotional Impact
Take note of what you've been viewing on social media and how it makes you feel. Was there a picture or video you came across recently that caused a visceral reaction? Did you feel your stomach turn, or did you get light headed? Was there a sinking feeling in your gut? Have you been struggling to get the images and videos of war out of your head, noticing that they're on a constant loop? Are you struggling to fall asleep at night or waking up frequently in the middle of the night? These feelings and behaviors can be signs of emotional dysregulation.
Reflect on your emotional responses to social media content related to the conflict. If you notice your nervous system becoming dysregulated, consider taking a break and stepping away from consuming content related to the war.
4. Seek Professional Help
Times of conflict and war can trigger many people living with PTSD, CPTSD, and other mental health conditions. Consumption of social media during wartime can escalate these triggers, causing people to deal with heightened anxiety, depression, or paranoia, including the use of unhealthy coping skills. Finding a therapist who can help you work through your own triggers can be helpful in regulating your nervous system.
Consider installing mindfulness apps, like Balance, which is a mindfulness meditation app that's currently giving away one year free to new users. Journaling, exercising, and spending time connecting with friends are other ways to help regulate your nervous system.
There's a balance between maintaining awareness of conflict and war and caring for our mental health. That balance can be tricky to find, but it's important to live within that balance so that we can show up as the best, most healthy versions of ourselves. The saying "you can't pour from an empty cup" holds true: if you're feeling depleted and dysregulated from consuming information, pictures, and videos about war through social media, how will you show up in your family, your career, your hobbies, your mental health, your life around you?
Take care of yourself during this time. You matter, too. It's okay to set boundaries and limits on what you're consuming.
At Root Counseling, we're committed to meeting clients wherever they are on their mental health journey, including how global events impact their daily lives. If you're interested in scheduling a session with one of our therapists, you can learn more about us here.