There are always terrible things going on in the world, but some weeks the bad news really weighs on me. I’m feeling it these days: Planes shot down, rising tensions with Russia, elevated violence between Israel and Palestine, Ebola virus spreading (and sickening or killing those trying to help), over half a million Iraqi Christians murdered or driven out of their homes as we speak.
Then there’s the stuff closer to home: A pregnant young mother of four (an alumna of a university I attended) just died of an aneurism following complications from a wasp attack. Our saintly pastor has stage four lung cancer. And this, while not tragic, is unsettling all the same: A family I know picking up their new children in China was stuck there for six days because of a worldwide computer meltdown affecting the U.S. embassy’s ability to issue visas. It all boggles the mind.
I know I don’t usually write about heavy subjects here, but I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering how much I should immerse myself in bad news, and how much I should focus on good news — or at least just my own life. There’s a balance to be had, and it can be hard to find in a 24-7 internet media world. Here’s what I tend to do when I encounter tragic or overwhelming news:
First, I ask myself if there’s anything I can actually do to change or help the situation, practically speaking. Most times there isn’t; sometimes I can send money, sign a petition, write a letter, or bring awareness by sharing it with others. Oftentimes, the only thing I can do is pray.
If I feel like I’m starting to get obsessed with bad news, I’ll decrease my consumption of media, including social media: I take a break from the news for a day or a couple of days, or simply don’t read every article about an event. Staying away from Facebook for a while helps, too!
I focus on my personal responsibilities. There are people who need me, people who depend on me; I try to give my attention to situations in my inner circles where I can actually make a difference — friends, family, work, church, neighborhood, city, the organizations I support, etc.
Most of all, I make an extra effort to be grateful, live in the moment, and cherish my loved ones. Every day is a gift; nothing is guaranteed, I know. I have first-world problems. When I remember this, it helps center me and live the best I can, which is all any of us can do in this beautiful and sometimes tragic world.
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed by bad news?
Image: Zoe Saint-Paul