I’ve just lost a day to the news. As for many people, recent events felt worrisome enough to me that I lost focus on my To Do list, and spent a bunch of time seeking news updates.
How is it for you? Are you glued to newscasts or social media feeds? Or are you avoiding them?
When we’re in the midst of difficult times in our own life, we may need the news to take a back seat for a while.
If you just learned that you or someone you love has a terminal illness, you may not have enough mental bandwidth to even care about national or world events. When this happens, our attention can shrink to only what’s right in front of us.
If you’re deep in grief from your own loss – a death or other ending – you may be too numb to care about the outside world. That’s how it was for me when a beloved aunt dying a day or two after a major national event. I was surprised that people were talking about the news because, Hey, my aunt just died!
And if you’re dealing with compassion fatigue or trying to make good self-care decisions to avoid it and find yourself overwhelmed at the end of a workday or volunteer shift, you may need to avoid any external input for a while.
Any of those choices can be healthy as we tuck in to care for our wounds – even if they don’t feel like consciously made choices.
On the other hand, sometimes we need to numb our own pain for a while.
In these cases it might be beneficial to turn to something else to occupy our mind for a while. One of those things might be the news, our social media feeds, or keeping busy with work or social events. It could be game apps or reading.
Getting a handle on what’s going on in the outside world can let you feel settled enough to carve out time to deal with your own difficulties.
Turning to a screen or a book can cleanse your mind and body of uncomfortable feelings until you decompress enough to turn back to your own life.
My clients are often surprised to learn that any of the above strategies can be useful. The trick is to avoid getting stuck either in the goings on of outside world or with your pain avoidance. It’s ongoing stuckness that causes problems.
We all get stuck sometimes. If you find yourself there, let it be okay. Notice what you’re doing and see if you can identify why. Ask yourself, “What would I rather be doing?” Then see if you can do at least a couple of minutes of that, even if you then go back to what you were doing.
For instance, I pulled my head out of my social media feed a number of times for food, bio-breaks, to take the dog out, or to check in with friends. Each time, I took notice of whether I needed to switch gears or if it felt more important to go back to scrolling. It wasn’t a client day, and none of my current projects have deadlines, so when I wanted to get back to the newsfeed I gave myself permission to do just that, knowing that I wouldn’t be stuck there forever. And when I noticed that I wanted to be outside for a while, the pup and I went for a short walk.
The key to avoiding stuckness is being aware of what you’re doing. Even better is realizing why you’re doing it. That can be difficult when you’re deep in pain, so you may need to enlist the help of a good friend who knows you well or a professional support provider to sort it out.
So, when you’re in the midst of pain, it’s usually best to let yourself follow your inner wisdom. As long as there’s a balance over time, you can be pretty sure your deepest self is taking good care of you. If you’re concerned or if you stay stuck, ask a professional – one with a good understanding of whatever you’re facing.
Here’s to balance! May you learn to pay attention to what feels right for you as you move through your hard times.