Managing the impact of global events

Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

Events in the world can take a toll on our emotions. Find out how to adjust your relationship to the news without losing touch with what’s happening.

The last few years have seen a series of global events that for many people have made the world seem more uncertain. War, a pandemic, political instability and division have led to feelings of anxiety, concern, sadness and anger.

While it is important to remain an informed citizen, taking steps to manage your engagement with this news can help to minimise its impact on your wellbeing.

If you are personally affected by an event you may benefit from accessing support from your university or a relevant organisation. Otherwise, you may find that the following approaches allow you to reduce the impact of global news on your wellbeing, while keeping you informed.

Accept and take care of yourself

Sometimes, events in the news can cause us to feel angry or upset, particularly when the events feel out of our control or impact on our sense of identity or justice. Having strong feelings about a particular issue is completely understandable and sometimes necessary. But if we hold onto those emotions, they can impact our mood and mental health in ways which can sometimes be unhelpful.

It may be useful to recognise your own feelings: give yourself space to allow them to process and grieve if needed.

At these times, it is particularly important to look after your physical wellbeing. Even though you may not feel like it, try to eat healthily and regularly, exercise, get some fresh air and sunlight and take care of your sleep. This will help you maintain your energy and mood.

Looking after your physical wellbeing

Manage your relationship with the news

Our continuous access to news and social media can have particularly negative effects on our wellbeing. Scrolling for new developments can lead to your mood going up and down. This can be exhausting and dispiriting.

Reducing the time you spend engaging with the news can help to limit this impact. Some people find benefit in only engaging with the news once a day or even once a week. That way you can focus on the key developments and analysis, without being constantly emotionally aroused.

It can also help if you are careful about your sources of information. Some commentators focus on producing content that creates an emotional response, rather than on increasing understanding.

Reading analysis from experts will mean you are better informed, than reading hot takes from opinion writers and it will be less likely to provoke unnecessary and unhelpful emotional spikes.

Tip: Next time you look at the news, reflect on how you feel afterwards. Have you learned something useful or important, or are you feeling a strong emotion like anger or fear? If the latter it may help to use a relaxation exercise to let go of emotion, such as 7/11 breathing.

Contribute what you can

These global events often feel distressing partly because we feel powerless to do anything about them.

If it is possible for you to do so, taking some kind of action can help to reduce the impact our feelings can have us and may help us by creating more meaning in our lives

Be realistic about what you can do, because you can’t tackle every issue. But remember, even a small contribution, when added to the small contributions of others, can add up. Taking a share of collective responsibility, by joining a relevant group, can make you feel less on your own. For example, by joining a local community group, focussed on an issue you care about - through this you may also meet new like-minded friends.

Beware of your imagination

When you look at the news, you might find yourself imagining all kinds of dire scenarios in the future.

But the truth is none of us can predict the future - when we try we often predict the worst, which can create a cycle of negative thinking that drags down our mood; even though our predictions may not come true.

Instead, focus on what we know today, and what you can do for yourself and others now.

Remember what isn’t affected

If we allow news events to take over our thoughts and imagination, this will prevent us from seeing the parts of our life and the world that remain unaffected.

Try to pay attention to those things that you have in your life that are still good and for which you can feel gratitude.

Find the good

Finding positive stories may help to balance the negative news you’re seeing.

Despite everything that is happening in the world, most people are still kind and good. Positive events rarely get mentioned in the news – because good things are more common and therefore aren’t unusual enough to report. Even in dire circumstances there will still be stories of people acting to help others.

Alternatively, it may benefit you to focus on good things around you. You might find these:

  • in nature

  • among your friends or family

  • the pleasure you take in studying your subject

  • in art and culture.

Page last reviewed: October 2022