Last week, during a school shooting in Kentucky, a 15-year-old student killed two fellow classmates and injured eighteen others. According to The New York Times, this was the 11th school shooting of this year. It was only January 23rd. When news like this breaks, it’s understandable to feel angry and scared. Some people’s responses involve going back to bed, or taking a day off. But self-care can be more than just necessary self-indulgence. The same motivations behind self-care can also be great motivators to make a bigger difference. Taking these steps is obviously harder than taking a nap or painting your nails, but they can be just as therapeutic in the long run.
It’s normal to feel helpless about what you are seeing on the news. Take the steps to educate yourself on relevant topics. If you’re shaken by a school shooting, do some research about gun control in your state. If you’re upset about rampant sexual assault allegations, find organizations and people who are doing work to help victims and end stigma.
Find your local government representatives’ views on issues you care about. Even if they agree with your point of view, still give them a call. Let them know that you care about this issue and you hope they’ll act to help.
It’s not healthy to hold in upsetting and destructive feelings. If you’re feeling angry, sad or anxious after an act of violence — that’s normal. Talking to a loved one or a friend about how you’re feeling can take a huge weight off your shoulders. Maybe consider talking to a professional, like a school counselor or a therapist who can help you process tough information in a productive and healthy way.
If you want to digest the information on your own, consider writing in a journal. Even just the release of honestly writing about how you feel can be healing and therapeutic.
3. Take Necessary Breaks
Especially in the age of the (often less than) 24-hour news cycle, it can be damaging to get the same devastating news over and over again. If you need to, take a breather. Turn off the TV. Go on a walk and put down your phone. Spend time with your family or friends. Don’t beat yourself up for needing space from tragic news. Taking a break and being complacent are not the same.
This step is important. For problems to begin to change, there needs to be action. Teach the information you have learned on relevant issues to people you care about. You might surprise people with what you know, leading them to think more about the issue.
If you have time and resources, maybe raise money for organizations you care about. If there’s a protest, go and march. Go with your friends. Maybe even organize your own event. The monumental women’s march wouldn’t have existed if women hadn’t come together to assemble the marches and speak out. Let your voice be heard.
Not all of these steps are feasible for everyone – and that’s okay.
There is not one right way to both take action and take care of yourself. Self-care is personal, it should be curated to you. You don’t need to do this alone, find people in your life who are passionate about the same issues and can provide you support. Even small steps matter in the long run. There’s never a wrong time to get started.