How to Deal With Strong Emotions Caused by Upsetting War Media Content?

Emotional responses and desensitisation may result from hearing distressing news and with violent news content all over the internet it's hard to censor it.

The last several years have been marked by an almost constant flow of horrific images and stories from all over the world, such as the over 3 million people who died from the COVID-19 pandemic and the enormous suffering caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Since October 2023, the entire globe has been consumed by the horrific loss of hundreds of thousands of defenceless civilian lives throughout Palestine, which continues to dominate headlines. Plenty of us find ourselves watching the media the moment we get up and right before bedtime due to the horrific news that comes with the continuing conflict in Gaza.

Most of us likely have witnessed enough horrific photos and videos of burning automobiles, dead people and demolished building blocks by now. Often, this exposure happens accidentally. For example, while browsing through postings on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, we may find an article that tells an authentic and heartbreaking tale of the misery of Gaza’s residents.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that the effects of trauma extend beyond the individuals who experience it, affecting others who are indirectly impacted by the suffering. This occurs as a result of human empathy and social nature. Emergency personnel, refugees, reporters, and other individuals frequently experience tangential and virtual involvement with trauma in their lives.

The news is one way to get awareness, particularly when it’s vivid, funny, and extremely relatable. According to earlier research, both adults and children may have an array of psychological responses in response to hearing about terrorist attacks like the one that occurred on September 11, 2001, including PTSD symptoms, sadness, and worry.

Desensitisation and numbness are two other risks associated with prolonged exposure to horrifying sights. Accordingly, some viewers may grow overly accustomed to these kinds of pictures, accepting them as the new normal and not finding them upsetting. For them, the horrific deaths of countless additional individuals are only numbers.

How to Protect Yourself from Emotional Trauma While Still Staying Aware of the Situation

The following useful advice will help you minimise harm while remaining informed:

1. Don’t expose details to too much depth. In my work with severely traumatised patients, I gather the data I require to support them, but I do not press for additional information. People can also only consume news in certain ways. Put differently, find out what’s going on and stop there. Refrain from succumbing to the impulse of catastrophe voyeurism. If you have already heard the story, you may not need to look for the pictures or videos; if you have already seen them, you do not need to go through them repeatedly.

2. Cut down on the amount of time and how often you hear depressing news. Stress can result from hours a day of watching media coverage of a mass trauma. To stay informed, check the headlines a few times a day, but stop looking for coverage. The same stories are frequently covered by the news cycle with little to no extra information.

3. Select news that is presented calmly. The goal of the media is to educate the people about current events, however, because of the storytelling style, sometimes terrible news is presented in a very sentimental manner. You can shield yourself from some of the highly charged material on the radio or TV by reading the news.

4. Refrain from scrolling endlessly. Avoid being tempted to spend hours looking at the same pictures from various perspectives. The victims’ suffering won’t be lessened by your personal pain. I mention this because there are many who may believe that they are uneducated or callous if they refrain from keeping up with the publicity.

5. Pay attention to and don’t shy away from other, better news. Constantly being exposed to news stories about disasters will skew your perspective. Your television news is not reporting much of what is going on in the worlds of sports, science, technology, art, and culture.

6. Recognise your boundaries. Certain individuals are more susceptible to the effects of what they encounter on a daily basis than others.

7. Give yourself some time to think. When you experience unpleasant emotions like grief or anxiety, remember that this is a typical human response to the suffering of others. After that, find solace in pursuits that will allow you to focus entirely and recover emotionally.

8. Engage in conversation. If impacted, you can chat with family members and observe how others manage. Consult a specialist if necessary.

9. Remain educated, and resist manipulation. Do not let your wrath and fear be used by those who want to divide and rule.

Hopefully, these tips will help you stay informed while keeping your mental health safe so you can absorb the content and think rationally instead of gaining trauma.

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