Staying positive right now is hard work. The news is bleak, and many of us are feeling a myriad of emotions from anxiety and sadness to guilt and anger. And all this with a global pandemic still rumbling on. To help you gain some perspective on these emotions and to help you deal with all these feelings we called on two experts: Suzy Reading, psychologist, yoga teacher and author of Self-care for tough times (suzyreading.co.uk), and Su Mee Tan, founder of Into the Mirror Coaching.
“The way we respond to news (good or bad) depends on our own perspective on life, earlier experiences, and basically the way we are wired. This is different for anyone,” notes Tan. “No one is immune,” adds Reading. “If you are feeling overwhelmed by the news, be gentle with yourself - it is very normal and natural that we feel a host of strong emotional responses to such devastating world events.”
Keep scrolling for their advice on how to stay positive when the news is so bleak.
How to stay positive #1: Accept your feelings
During traumatic world events it can be hard to navigate all your feelings, whether it’s happiness and guilt because you’re okay, or sadness, anxiety, anger. Let’s face it, at times like these feelings of positivity can sometimes seem like a distant memory. “Whatever emotions you’re experiencing, the first step is to accept that they are here,” says Tan. “It can be hard not to judge yourself but it’s important to remember that there is nothing wrong with you for feeling whatever you’re feeling. The power is in choosing how to respond to these emotions. You can either judge yourself, or you can stop, breathe and choose what’s next for you.”
How to stay positive #2: Set boundaries
“While we want to be informed, it is important that we do so in a way that sustains our mental health,” says Reading. “It helps to have healthy boundaries in how we digest our news - seeking reliable sources, checking in at appropriate times, and for appropriate amounts of time.” For instance, avoiding the news just before bed can limit anxious thoughts from disrupting your sleep.
And remember, limiting the amount of news media you consume doesn’t mean you don’t care about what’s happening in the world. “Traumatising ourselves does not empower us to help those in need,” notes Reading. “We can best be of service when we are taking care of our nervous system, so seeking comfort and soothing is helpful, allowing us to see with greater clarity how we can make a contribution and take that values-led action.”
How to stay positive #3: Take action
Taking action will give you purpose and help you stay positive. “Nothing is too small, and an act of kindness can go a long way,” says Tan.
Reading agrees that taking action can help you and others, “keep bringing your mind back to what you can do, there are so many ways to make a difference. You can donate belongings, volunteer your time, provide financial support, you can write to your MP and voice your feelings, you can demonstrate and don't forget about issues in your own community - wherever there are people needing care and protection, you can extend your compassion. Reflecting on your personal values as a human being and looking for ways to infuse this purpose into everyday life can keep us feeling centered.”
How to stay positive #4: Know that you’re not alone
“Know that you are not alone, and that it is okay to not feel okay,” says Tan. “Talking to friends or family can help, and sometimes a therapist or coach may be a better answer. The most important thing is to find someone that will listen without judgement, and that won’t try to “fix” you.
“You also don’t know what impact the news may be having on others, what emotions come up for them, or how they might be re-living traumatic experiences by watching the news,” adds Tan. “Check in with those around you and listen to their stories. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone is your presence, and that in itself can be healing for both you and the other person.”
How to stay positive #5: Tend to your own healing
“Give yourself time and space to acknowledge all your feelings, these are distressing times and it is normal to feel distressed,” says Reading. She suggests having a toolkit that you can draw on in times of stress.
“Rather than trying to clear the mind or eradicate anxious feelings, give your mind something constructive to anchor onto, different things will resonate in different moments,” notes Reading. She suggests trying the following and seeing what works for you:
- Green gazing: Look in the distance to the moving canopy of trees for a moment of zooming out.
- Mantras: A mantra can be a powerful distraction, such as 'I am doing what I can', or 'I hold onto hope'. Focusing your attention on what lies within your control - the simple mantra 'What can I do?' can be helpful in directing our attention - we can't control world events but we can stand up for our values and do what we can to help ease suffering in the world around us.
- Intentional breathing: Try using the breath to regulate the nervous system, like the candle breath - inhaling through the nose and exhaling slowly and gently through pursed lips.
- Mindful movement: Turn to movement to help dissipate the energetic charge of rage or anxiety to literally channel it or, once we've taken action, shaking it off.
- Standing tall: Use your posture to tap into a feeling of calm resolve, extending up through the crown of the head, broadening your chest, softening your jaw and shoulders, reminding yourself that we can stand tall like a mountain.