Friday, December 8, 2023

‘What Are You Supposed To Do When The World Is A Dumpster Fire? TBH I’m Not Sure, But Here’s What Works For Me.’ Brodie Kane On Being Informed vs Overwhelmed

Welcome to TBH – To Be Honest – Capsule’s monthly column with our columnist and old pal, Brodie Kane! This month, Brodie talks us through why she decided to write to the government over their lack of action in calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, how to stop feeling so helpless and brings in some expert tips on being informed vs overwhelmed.

And for her previous columns, click here!

You may have read my open letter to caretaker Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, about my utter dismay, disappointment and anger over their lack of action in calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

I have found what we are witnessing there totally unfathomable. I cannot believe the atrocities that are happening day after day after day. I cannot believe no one has done anything to stop it. There is nothing on earth that should allow the continued killing of children. It makes me sick to my stomach. I’m so ashamed of the world right now.

I wrote that letter because when you’re sitting on the other side of the world feeling completely helpless, you try to figure out what on earth you can do to help. Writing to our politicians is one thing, joining a protest is another. I did that last weekend and I will continue to show up when I can, because those are so important to be involved in.

I’m also in a position where I have also been able to donate to charity. I watch/consume a lot of information about what’s happening so I stay up-to-date. I also think it’s important to use my voice and platform to raise awareness.

As a result, there are many times during any given day where this situation in Gaza the only thing I can think about. And then it’s very easy to fall into a pit of despair about what’s happening.

And then, when you can get yourself out of that pit and keep going with your day, you often feel guilty for carrying on. Guilty for your privilege. Guilty that you CAN carry on.

So what are you supposed to do? I simply don’t know. But I want to know, and I have no doubt that a lot of you want to know as well. So I asked the wonderful Jacqui Maguire, my good friend and clinical psychologist, for some guidance for us all.

How To Stay Informed Without Getting Overwhelmed

Jacqui’s advice:

“In a world dominated by 24-hour news cycles and unfiltered social media, we are constantly exposed to global conflict and humanitarian crises.

While it’s crucial for the global community to stay informed and respond proactively, we must also recognise the psychological impact of exposing ourselves to widespread devastation.

Global uncertainty and a diminished sense of safety can trigger our internal stress response, putting us in a perpetual ‘fight or flight’ mode.

Emotions, like a wildfire, spread contagiously, influencing the emotional climate of our communities and our brain’s mirror neurons can even make us feel the physical pain of recorded victims.

So as we face the reality of global war, genocide, and climate catastrophes, the question becomes: How do we stay aware without losing focus on our own lives? How do we maintain empathy without being paralysed by distress? How do we stay informed without being consumed?

Create Boundaries Around Media Use

Being informed can make us feel knowledgeable and prepared, but being too informed or consumed can lead to overwhelm and distress.

Consciously manage the quantity of distressing information you expose yourself to, setting routines such as “I’ll watch the six o’clock news only” or “I’ll check the news once a day.”

Setting limits on doom scrolling, in-depth research, and tragic conversations is equally important.

‘Name it to Tame it’

Psychological researchers and the World Health Organisation consider emotional regulation an essential mental health skill. This involves three steps

1. Awareness: Recognise when you’re having an emotional reaction.

2. Label emotions: Identify what you’re feeling.

3. Take action: Do something to reduce the emotional reaction, like deep breathing, exercise, fresh air, distraction, engaging in positive activities, or connecting with others.

Watch Your Thoughts and Seek Counter Evidence

Exposure to others’ trauma can distort our core beliefs, making our thinking patterns more negative. Noting your negative thoughts as they pop into your mind is an effective strategy to reduce the emotional impact of those thoughts. For example “I am having another Gaza thought”.

This strategy is a ‘diffusion’ technique which allows us to create space between the thought and our reaction; providing us the ability to proactively choose if we want to spend our current time and energy on that thought channel.

Your brain by nature will also hold on to experiences that back such negative viewpoints, so choosing to create a positivity bias is helpful. Keep a gratitude journal, sharing ‘what went well’ stories at the dinner table, keeping a record of when people act in ways that are kind and generous are all helpful daily rituals.

Schedule in the Good Stuff

In challenging times, engage in activities that evoke positive emotions. Positive mental health can be fostered by experiencing three positive emotions for every negative one.

What can you do through your week to bring you a sense of fun, awe, mastery, satisfaction and delight (just to name a few!).

Stay Connected to the Right People

A sense of belonging is crucial for mental health. Choose to spend time with people who uplift you rather than drain you!

If you are around people with opposing views, decide beforehand whether you have the mental and emotional energy to engage in debate or if it’s better to let things go.

Remember, while you can’t control others, you can decide how and what you engage with.”

What’s Been Working For Brodie

I appreciate Jacqui so much for taking the time to send this advice through; I hope you find it as helpful as I have.

If I can throw in my absolutely non-expertise opinion for things that have helped me, I can recommend writing down your thoughts and sending them to your local MP. And, head along to a protest near you. I went alone last week and was surrounded by like-minded, caring and wonderful people from all walks of life. It will restore your faith in humanity for sure.

Put some loud music on and sing really loudly (I can recommend Harry Styles). I find the car is a really good place for that. And finally from me, don’t engage in arguments on social media. It is a complete waste of time and I can promise you it will absolutely not make you feel any better (speaking from experience haha).

Look after yourselves. X

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