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Coping with anxiety about world events

profile picture of Naomi Humber
Head of Mental Wellbeing, Bupa Health Clinics
10 March 2022
Next review due March 2025

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, from the pandemic, to climate change, to global conflicts. It’s understandable to feel anxious during these worrying and uncertain times. But focussing on ‘worst case’ scenarios can bring about anxiety, stress and insomnia.

Here I look at how to support your own mental health during times of worry and uncertainty about world events.

Balance your exposure to the media

It’s important to stay informed about current events. But today’s constant media coverage can also be overwhelming. If reading or watching the news makes you feel anxious, try to limit how much you view. Check a trusted news source once or twice a day, and then switch off and focus on something else. Avoid watching the news in the evening if it impacts on your sleep.

Remember, some news sources tend to sensationalise (present things more dramatically) than others. It’s also important to look beyond the headlines to get a balanced and accurate view.

When things are uncertain, all that news sources can do is to talk about the possible outcomes. So, keep informed, but try not to get caught up in ‘what-ifs’.

Focus on things you can control

It’s worth thinking about whether the things that are making you anxious are things you can control. As hard as it can be to accept, no good can come of worrying about things we can’t change. Instead, try to shift your attention to focus on what you can control, and positive changes you can make. Our worry tree may help you to work through this.

In times of crisis, some of the best things you can do may involve helping others in need. That may be through donating money to charity, raising awareness of a cause, or offering practical help if you can.

Managing your feelings

Accept the fact that certain things will make you feel upset or worried. This is only natural when we’re thinking about global events. But try not to catastrophise (assume the worst possible outcome). Empathy is usually a positive thing, but it’s important not to worry about others at the expense of your own mental wellbeing.

If anxiety is taking over, it can even help to give yourself a fixed ‘worry time’ during the day. If you find yourself starting to worry outside of this period, tell yourself to save it for your ‘worry time’.

Allow yourself to work through your thoughts during the time you’ve allocated. Writing things down or thinking about whether there are any practical changes you can make may help. For every worst-case scenario, remind yourself that there may be a more positive outcome too. When the time is up, make sure you move on and give yourself another task or activity to do that keeps your mind busy.

Enjoying the here and now

We can’t predict what will happen in the future or how world events will impact us. But letting our worries take over doesn’t help anyone, least of all ourselves. Don’t let worry or stress impact your daily routines and general health. Make an extra effort to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. Relaxation techniques, such a breathing exercises and mindfulness, can help too.

As with any form of anxiety, it can help to focus on the here and now. Make time to think about other things and to do things you enjoy. This could be going for a walk, doing a hobby or spending time with loved ones. Living ‘in the moment’ like this can help you to enjoy life, even in times of worry and uncertainty.

profile picture of Naomi Humber
Naomi Humber
Head of Mental Wellbeing, Bupa Health Clinics

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