How To Deal With Today's News Cycle As A Highly Sensitive Person
The news is a scary place right now. When world events are triggering or downright heartbreaking, they can be difficult to navigate emotionally. Highly sensitive and empathic people—who can sometimes more easily pick up on or feel the energy and emotions of others—might find the news cycle especially daunting or even paralyzing. Here's how highly sensitive and empathic people can forge a relationship to world events that is informative, healthy, and meaningful:
1. Expect to be less engaged with events in the larger world when your own personal world is in turmoil.
If you just lost a loved one, suffered a major injury, are experiencing severe emotional or physical burnout, or are struggling to find work and pay your bills, naturally you will be less concerned with what is going on in the larger world. During these personally challenging times, it might be healthy to limit your exposure to the news and the suffering of others temporarily. (To reiterate: This is a temporary coping skill and not a long-term strategy!)
2. Know that hiding away from suffering in the larger world does not protect your sensitive powers but rather puts them in jeopardy.
Sensitive people may feel that isolating from the larger problems of the world is a way to honor or nourish their sensitivity. But like any other muscle, when your sensitivity is not exercised, it will atrophy. Tuning in to intense emotion and energy—even when it's challenging—is an important way to grow and understand your sensitivity. Certainly you need to create boundaries regarding other people's energy and emotions. Just make sure the boundaries you put up around you are not so high and thick that nothing can get through.
3. Understand that your exceptional sensitivity and empathy make you stronger, not weaker.
Recently I asked someone if he had heard about a tragic event that was playing out on the national stage. I wanted to share the challenging feelings it brought up in me and be comforted by his own, no doubt, similar reaction. "Oh, I have not even looked at that," he said. "I'm so sensitive I just cannot bear to." While sensitive people who easily absorb the energy and emotions of others do need to be mindful of what they expose themselves to, they are still capable of being in the world. When others are suffering—because of a natural disaster, mass shooting, act of war, or other devastating event—it's important that humans who were not so directly affected acknowledge the suffering of others. History has shown that when society denies or downplays or refuses to look at the suffering of some of its members, it is dangerous and irresponsible.
4. Find mindful ways to approach devastating or triggering events in the larger world.
If you are afraid of looking at an issue in the news because it will make you angry or re-trigger wounds of your own, that's natural. Yet every time an old wound is re-triggered, it paves the way for a new level of healing to present itself. Allow yourself a set amount of time to look at this issue or read a few articles or personal accounts of people suffering. Then promise yourself you will go away from it again and immerse yourself in another activity to make things more manageable.
5. Remind yourself that you are not powerless.
Sensitive people might shy away from following difficult cultural issues because they don't feel they can do anything to effect change. Have a conversation with someone in which you diplomatically debate the different possible solutions, make a monthly donation to a nonprofit that is dedicated to making change in this area, or research whether there is anything you can do in your daily life to help (like changing the politicians you support or the companies you give your business to).
6. Embrace the fact that you came here to feel.
As a soul, you incarnated here in part to feel things and be moved by events in the larger world. You rob yourself most when you look away completely from something troubling. Your energy and emotional systems are holistic in the sense that if you numb out to difficult things in your environment, you will also, probably without realizing it, numb out to things that are joyful, beautiful, and life-affirming as well. All of our feelings inform the others, sometimes simply by providing contrast.
7. Don't judge yourself, and do prioritize your own mental health.
If you are experiencing anxiety or depression, don't do anything to make it worse. Talk to your health-care provider if something in the larger world is increasing these feelings. If finding a balanced way to be involved in issues you care about in the larger world seems hard, don't make it worse by being hard on yourself. Be gentle with yourself as you negotiate looking at suffering in the larger world. We need sensitive people who are aware, awake, and actively trying to make the world a better place for everyone. And your participation level is always dependent upon your own personal emotional health, and emotional needs, in the moment. Prioritize yourself, which is something sensitive people may find it helpful to be reminded to do. If you'd like to learn more about celebrating your sensitivity, pick up my latest book, Angel Intuition.
8. Create healthy patterns.
If you refuse to look at suffering in the larger world, it can create an unhealthy pattern in which you also downplay or ignore the suffering of loved ones or even yourself. It can be very difficult to look at pain and suffering, whether it's our own or being experienced by people on the other side of the world. Yet it's also a part of life. Find your own pattern of dealing with this difficult part of being human, and celebrate all the magic, beauty, joy, and wonder in the world too.
9. Look for positive things happening in the world too.
Finally, don't forget that every day there are examples of amazingly positive things happening in the world too! You might read an article about people reuniting after being separated by circumstances beyond their control for decades, or activists making a difference in an underserved community, or someone overcoming intimidating odds to make their personal dream come true. Look for photos of people around the world smiling, triumphing, and helping one another out. Digesting this global good news as well will create balance, inspire and motivate you, and nourish your spirit.
Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.