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Coping with distressing events in the news

If you ever find yourself struggling to cope with things happening in the news, or in the world - you're not alone.

On this page you'll find out:

How events in the news might impact our wellbeing

We live in a complicated world. Over the past few years headlines have included the cost of living crisis, climate change, wars, natural disasters, coronavirus, terrorism, and political uncertainty.

Some news highlights a difficult reality - like the existence of racism, poverty, and other kinds of inequality. Coverage can seem constant through 24-hour TV, news websites and social media. And for many of us these issues aren't only in the headlines - they impact our daily lives. 

For example, we may feel:

  • Anxious or worried about what an event means for us, or our loved ones
  • Overwhelmed or stressed - especially when an event is dominating the news
  • Angry or frustrated - for example about injustice
  • Sad or upset
  • Afraid or unsafe
  • Hopeless or powerless about a situation we can't control
  • Confused about what's happening, and who we can trust
  • Pressured to always stay informed - and guilty when we can't
  • Traumatised - as seeing other people experiencing violence or grief can bring up painful feelings and traumatic memories from our own lives
  • Isolated, conflicted or suspicious of others - for example when other people hold opinions you don't share
  • Unable to enjoy any media - like we can't use TV or our phones to help us relax any more, when we usually would
  • Unable to switch off or stop scrolling - even though it might be making us feel worse
  • Unsure how to talk about what's happening - especially to younger children

 My head and mind felt like I was being sucked into a whirlwind of information, and I could feel my anxiety creep back in and wash over me.

Of course there are always positive and inspiring things happening in the world. And keeping informed about what's going on around us can feel useful and empowering.

Events may affect each of us differently depending on our own views and experiences. There's no right or wrong way to feel.

But if you're finding things hard, you might find the following tips helpful.

Tips for coping with distressing news events

Remember that different things work for different people at different times. If a particular suggestion doesn't work for you, be kind to yourself. You could try something else, or try again later.

Set boundaries with your news habits

Watching, reading or listening to the news is a helpful way to stay informed. And when a story is developing, it can be tempting to see what everyone else is saying on social media. But if that's making you feel worse, you might want to change your habits.

You could try to:

  • Set yourself limits, and try to stick to them - like only looking at the news at a certain time of day, or for a set amount of time
  • Mute notifications from news websites and apps, so you only engage with the news when you choose to
  • Tailor your social media - for example by choosing to view certain pages, but not scroll through timelines or newsfeeds
  • Focus on factual content rather than opinions - even though the facts may still be difficult
  • Seek out some positive or uplifting news stories, or scroll social feeds that make you feel good

Remember it's not possible to keep up to date with everything, and it's ok to take a break if you need to.

We have more tips on getting a good online / offline balance.

I started to feel overwhelmed with the coronavirus crisis, so I decided to listen to the news just once a day as it was all getting too much and I was getting anxious about all sorts of uncertainties.

Focus on what you can control

It might help to try to focus on what you can control – even if there aren't many things, or if they only feel small.

To help focus your thoughts you could:

  • Make a list of the things you can change, and the things you can't
  • Try to notice positive things in your life that are staying the same, despite other things feeling uncertain
  • Try to distract yourself from the things you can't control - for example with a relaxation exercise

Worried about the cost of living?

The cost of living crisis has been hitting many of us hard. Especially those of us who were already struggling. Money worries can impact wellbeing - and when your mental health takes a hit, keeping on top of money and bills can become even harder.

But if you're feeling overwhelmed, there may be some practical steps you can take. Read our information on money and mental health for tips on managing money, and where to turn for financial support.

Take care of your overall wellbeing

Taking care of ourselves is sometimes called practising self-care. Self-care means different things to different people. It can describe anything you do to look after your own physical and mental wellbeing. It's a way to build up your energy and strength.

When you're feeling very worried or distressed, you may find it harder to sleep, exercise or take care of your diet. But even when lots of things feel out of control – you can decide when and how you show yourself kindness.

Take a look at our suggestions for:

We also have tailored self-care ideas if you're living with a particular type of mental health problem. For example, we have some self-care suggestions for coping with anxiety.

 I aim to go for a walk at lunchtime... It gives me time to clear my head from the morning. It also reminds me that I need to look after myself.

Take action for change in the world

Depending on the issue affecting you, you may find it rewarding to take action for change.

This won't always feel possible. And it's important to remember that it's not your responsibility alone to tackle big problems.

But there may be times where you find taking action helpful. And even small actions can contribute to making a difference.

Here are some options to explore:

The website has more information about your rights when volunteering, and how to find opportunities.

 I used the Black Lives Matter movement as a gateway for empowerment. My mental health was affected negatively until I channelled my energy into something positive.

Talk to someone you trust

It could help to speak to someone you trust about how you're feeling. They may be feeling the same way. Talking to someone else about it might help you to feel heard. We have some tips on talking to friends and family.

If you aren't able to speak to someone close to you, you could try a listening line. Samaritans are open all the time on 116 123, or [email protected] - they're for anyone who's struggling.

Get more help for your mental health

Experiencing difficult feelings doesn't always mean you have a mental health problem. But if your feelings are very upsetting, last a long time, or are stopping you enjoying your life - you might want to reach out for support.

It's always ok to ask for help, even if you're not sure whether you're experiencing a mental health problem.

Your first step could be to talk to your GP, or to ring our Infoline.

Research evidence

Secondary sources

Published: February 2023
Next review planned: February 2025

Read our permissions and licensing page if you want to reproduce our content.

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