How to Find Balance Between Being Informed and Mental Overwhelm
This was post was originally shared on 2/17/17. With all of the traumatic events being share in the news lately, I found it was timely to share it again.
Ladies, please take care of yourselves, whatever that means for you. Get the support that you need. This article is a great start. In addition to the ladies listed below, another resource that I found valuable is Therapy for Black Girls.
Now, on to the article.
I don't know about you but I get a little queasy everytime I get a breaking news notification that include 45's name in it. 45 is the current president of the United States FYI. The entire election cycle was a lot to deal with, let alone the results. Many of us are struggling with finding balance between being informed and being mentally overwhelmed from what's happening. For some, what's taking place and what's expected to come is downright traumatic. I wanted to provide a piece on how you can deal with everything that's taking place, but I know my expertise and psychology isn't it. I teamed up with two of my favorite mental health professionals, Davia Roberts - licensed therapist based in Austin, TX and Stefanie Flores - licensed mental health therapist based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Davia and Stefanie did not hesitate to work with me on this project and provide their best advice to the #HERmovement readers on managing emotional overload and tips for taking an effective digital detox.
On finding balance between being informed and emotional overload...
Stefanie: We can use social media to our advantage during these times. Create a Twitter list of your “woke” friends/resources. Twitter offers us a handy tool to divide and conquer our viewing needs. When you want to be updated on news click on your Twitter list at designated times of the day! Also, feel free to use privacy settings on your Facebook to limit negativity or overly-political friends. Identify what you need to see first on your Facebook (positive posts, business articles, self-care gems from The Focus On You) and tailor your FB so you see your faves first.
Davia: The key difference is that information should be used as a tool for progress, enlightenment, and action. Right now, a lot of information is used to strike fear. Quite frankly, it’s working. Sadly, we’re the ones being affected by the constant flood of horrifying news. While we all want to be informed, we react to the weight of our new reality in different ways. Our definitions of “too much” are unique to us. You know how much you can handle before you feel the sink in your stomach or migraine kick in. So instead of waiting until you “feel it,” try to be mindful about your limits. Use that information to establish boundaries for your emotional wellbeing.
On Taking a Digital Detox..
Davia: In a society that influences us to believe that we must be available at all times, a digital detox can sound intimidating. What if you miss important news or an email that you’ve been expecting? Well, here’s the thing… a digital detox does not mean you have to burn your phone and laptop. A detox is a deliberate way to rid yourself of toxic information that doesn’t benefit you. So think about this…how can you rid yourself of toxic information? You can start by setting time frames about when you’ll check the news or social media. Instead of automatically perusing the timeline after you’ve pressed snooze on your phone, you can wait to check CNN and Twitter around noon. Concerned that your notifications will be too much of a distraction for you? Try removing the apps from your phone or turning off notifications. At the end of the day, your well-being benefits when there’s a significant decrease of toxic information coming through your phone.
Stefanie: Tell someone your plan for detoxing. If you are planning to be outdoors or stay busy, don’t hang out with someone who’s attached to their phone. Tell them NOT to alert you about every new update. Honestly, when I’m busy cleaning, grocery shopping or browsing through Macy’s, I have NO interest in news or Twitter. Think about a place where its easier to be hands free (hiking, gym class, with family members, around kids, while shopping). Plus, be realistic about your detox. It may be tough to be offline for a whole weekend. Personally, I like having one night or afternoon on the weekend to unplug and RECONNECT with loved ones.
On cost effective resources that are available for seeking counseling or therapy...
Stefanie: Don’t skip out on free resources through your company’s health plan. EAP (Employee Assistance Program) offers a limited amount of free counseling for yourself and family members. They usually assist with all types of personal issues and by law, they cannot tell your employer that you sought counseling. Does your church or local hospital offer support groups? Although a licensed professional may not be available at these locations, a sense of community can help people with certain issues (grief, family issues, addictions, parenting struggles).
Davia: For college students, I always suggest that you start with the counseling center on campus. Many schools offer free or low cost services to students. Unfortunately, campus counseling centers tend to have long wait times due to high demand and small staff. For those who can’t wait, ask for a referral to a community agency that provides sliding scale services. Some of you may not be familiar with the term, “sliding scale.” Sliding scale means a provider makes their services more accessible and affordable by lowering the fee. In other words, they let the price “slide” lower than usual, based on your level of income. It’s a way to make therapy more affordable for consumers. While psychotherapy can be an expensive form of care, there are many mental health providers that provide sliding scale to better serve communities with financial barriers. In fact, there are community agencies that run solely on sliding scale models. If you’re seeking cost effective resources for counseling or therapy, begin with a Google search of “sliding scale counseling (Insert your city).” You’re bound to find a few options. If you’re more tech savvy and willing to try something unconventional, you could always use a counseling app like TalkSpace. These apps connect you with licensed therapist and you’re given the opportunity to communicate via text or Skype. Personally, I’m old school and prefer sitting face to face but this may be a great first step if you’re nervous about therapy and want to sample it before committing to the process. Lastly, there are an abundance of hotlines that are available 24/7 that have been listed below. As you can see, mental health support does not have to be crazy expensive. There are affordable options if you know where to look.
On self care techniques we can do to make time for self in the midst of living a busy life...
Davia: I suggest two things, disconnect and rest. Set a time for yourself where you no longer engage in social media. Sometimes, your consumption of the news or general chaos on your timelines can be activating. Instead of reacting to the drama, you can make an effort to be proactive by setting personal limits about how much you consume and when. Once you do that, find way to rest. Be mindful that rest can mean a good night’s rest, reading a book, yoga, or calling a friend. In the end, your self-care should be restorative. If something takes more energy from you, it isn’t considered self-care. Engage in activities that will restore you mentally, physically, or emotionally. For the busy bombshells, remember that you don’t need an hour or two for self-care. Self-care may mean grabbing a healthy lunch, writing in a journal for 15 minutes between meetings, or taking 5 minutes to sit in silence. You’ll definitely notice a difference whether you use 5 minutes for self-care or 5 hours. The benefits will appear regardless.
Stefanie: Identify what will nourish you. Every self-care technique ain’t for everybody. What nourishes your soul, body, mind and belly? Do you need to reboot your pantry and eat more comforting foods? Do you need a fruit basket to hold you accountable to improving your diet? Is your body exhausted? Are you beating up your body all day? Wear more loose fitting clothes & comfy shoes, clean out your bulging purse, buy new pillows, soft sheets, massage oils, a massage pillow at your desk, etc. If your feet are tired, your soul is likely feeling the same.
Additional gems and nuggets
Stefanie: I use time blocks to limit how much time I devote to daily news. I admit that I follow a lot of politics and I stay active in fighting back against injustices. But I listen to my body first. I listen to when I need a time out. I give myself an hour here and there to step away from the news and to edge closer to my supports. I almost enjoy housework because it’s a forced distraction. Lately I have been spending more time on Pinterest while playing smooth R&B. There is no news on Pinterest! As a blogger I need to balance my creativity while keeping a pulse on my audience and Pinterest has been a lifesaver.
Davia: In the words of Lauryn Hill, “How you gone win when you ain’t right within?” If you’re going to make it through these next 4 years, you’re going to need a deliberate plan to sustain your wellbeing. Don’t wait until your exhausted and overwhelmed to begin an action plan for self-care. Make yourself a priority, we need you.
Did you find this article helpful? Comment below with your thoughts and additional mental health + self care resources.