Coping with current affairs and news

Navigating Triggers: Coping with Current Affairs and News with PTSD & C-PTSD

In today’s world, it can feel like we’re constantly bombarded with graphic information, explicit imagery and upsetting stories, especially through the news and social media. The World Health Organisation has reported that constant news checking can make us feel more stressed and anxious, and other studies show that social media news can contribute to increased panic reactions. Although staying informed and educated is important, it’s a reminder for us to be mindful of how all this affects our well-being and figure out ways to cope in this digital age.

For many people, this constant news exposure, especially in the current time, is taking a toll, leading to profound exhaustion, weariness, and heightened anxiety. The stress isn’t just limited to news reports; it infiltrates our group WhatsApp chats and our social media platforms. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to find effective coping strategies, especially when the news becomes particularly triggering.

For people dealing with PTSD or C-PTSD however, the overwhelming news, especially during crises, or cases that have reminders and triggers of trauma they experienced, can be especially triggering. It’s vital to understand and address the unique challenges someone with PTSD or C-PTSD may face when confronted with explicit and distressing news reports.

Understanding the Ripple Effect of Current Affairs

For people navigating PTSD and C-PTSD, seemingly ordinary news updates can serve as powerful triggers, reawakening past traumas and intensifying emotional response. The recent content circulating online in relation to the Israel-Palestine and Ukraine-Russia conflicts have been particularly challenging for many especially as there are some particularly graphic images and videos which can ‘pop up’ when you least expect it as you’re scrolling. What felt like a safe place of cat memes and online dance routines, where people scroll to perhaps wind down, or take some ‘me’ time, can now be a place of huge triggers and graphic content.  It’s important to acknowledge that these reactions are normal responses to abnormal circumstances – especially when faced with the brutal realities that face many people in these countries. The impact of graphic news content is not just emotional; it can manifest physically, leading to heightened anxiety, panic attacks, or intrusive thoughts.

Validating Emotional Responses

The first step in addressing these triggers is acknowledging that the emotions experienced are valid and understandable – for anyone! However, PTSD and C-PTSD can amplify the emotional response to distressing events and imagery, and mixed with the ‘unexpected’ nature of some of the content that is being shared, it can cause much deeper emotional reactions. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, remember that it’s okay to take a step back and prioritise your well-being.

Coping Strategies for Managing Triggers

  1. Utilise Content Filters on Social Media: Most social media platforms offer sensitive content filters, allowing users to control the type of content that appears on their feed. Activate these filters to create a more curated online experience, shielding yourself from explicit images and triggering material. (see details below on how to do this)
  2. Limit Exposure to News: While staying informed is important, it’s equally crucial to recognise your limits. Consider designating specific times for news consumption and avoid excessive exposure. Setting boundaries allows you to stay informed without feeling overwhelmed such as aiming to spend less than 30 minutes a day on it, including social media, and steer clear of it before bedtime. Whenever possible, steer clear of extended scrolling sessions too.
  3. Engage in Mindful Activities: Cultivate practices that promote mindfulness, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga. These activities can help ground you in the present moment, providing a respite from intrusive thoughts.
  4. Seek Support: Reach out to friends, family, or mental health professionals for support. Sharing your feelings with a trusted confidant can provide emotional relief and a sense of connection.
  5. Focus on Local Impact: It’s important to understand that, while we might wish to lend a hand or make a difference in current global and national situations, some of these things might just be beyond our control. Directing your energy towards local initiatives can be a source of empowerment however. Engaging in activities that support your community, whether it’s volunteering or fostering positive connections, can have a ripple effect. Remember, even small gestures can make a significant impact.
  6. Establish a Routine: Create a stable routine that includes self-care activities. A predictable schedule can provide a sense of control and stability, mitigating the unpredictability of external events.

Social Media Sensitive Content Filters

Most social media platforms have settings you can use to protect yourself. (somewhat) from triggering content. Whilst these are not fully reliable, they can help limit some of the types of content you may see. 

X (formerly Twitter)

  1. Click on the More icon and go to the Privacy and safety settings.
  2. Look for the Content you see section and check the box next to Display media that may contain sensitive content.
  3. Settings are automatically saved.

TikTok

To turn Restricted Mode on or off:

  1. In the TikTok app, tap Profile at the bottom.
  2. Tap the Menu button at the top.
  3. Tap Settings and privacy.
  4. Tap Content preferences, then tap Restricted Mode
  5. Follow the steps in the app to set or enter a passcode to turn Restricted Mode on or off.

Instagram

  1. Tap your profile picture in the bottom right to go to your profile.
  2. Tap the three lines in the top right, then tap Settings and privacy.
  3. Tap Suggested content, then Sensitive content.
  4. Select Less to see less content that you may find upsetting.
  5. Press Confirm.

Facebook

Facebook has less measures for restricting content, however, you can enhance the ‘sensitive content’ filters

  1. On settings (click the cog icon) select ‘News Feed’ under preferences
  2. Select ‘Reduce’
  3. Choose ‘sensitive content’
  4. And you can then choose ‘reduce more’

Balancing Awareness and Well-being

It’s important to note that prioritising your well-being is not about “burying your head in the sand” or ignoring the world’s realities, staying informed and educated is important. Rather, it’s a conscious effort to protect your mental health at the same time, enabling you to engage more effectively and support others in the longer term. By establishing healthy boundaries and practising self-care, you empower yourself to contribute positively to the world while safeguarding your own emotional resilience. Remember, taking care of yourself is not selfish; it’s an essential foundation for sustained, meaningful impact.

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