By Deborah Walsh Dobbs, M.A.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my fifty-two years is the value of good relationships. Even though I prefer to stay home, and I socialize in short bursts, I hold tight to my healthy connections with other humans. I try to avoid things that might damage those relationships, and while some conflict is inevitable, I try to keep it fair, healthy, and productive.
It’s almost impossible not to discuss tragedies and significant events, especially when we’re relentlessly reminded of them every time we view the news, check email, or open a social media app. We tend to come together during trying times, too, but recent tragedies and events, ranging from shootings to Supreme Court decisions, are not only emotional but also super-charged with opinions. They’re loaded with potential conflict.
Regardless of what side a person stands on an issue, can we agree we’re dealing with a lot? When the world feels uncertain and sometimes frightening, it benefits us to hold tight to our healthy connections with others. How do we do that if we disagree on deeply held beliefs?
There’s no magic wand I can wave to eliminate tension, but here are some tips that might help.
Separate the Person from the Issue
Years ago, I watched an interview with the Dalai Lama during which he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “People are not all good or all bad.” Relating to current tragedies and events, you might think someone’s opinion is bad, even genuinely awful, but you don’t have to believe the person is all bad for having it.
Embrace Common Humanity
War, crime, elections, and huge political changes generate unpleasant feelings no matter one’s opinion. Part of the human experience involves this pain. It connects us. Understanding this truth is common humanity. Joys in life connect us, as well, but we’re not bombarded by those stories, are we? We have to seek them. You’ll find links below to lead you toward good news.
Increase Your Exposure to Good News:
Feeling Down? The Top 5 Good News Websites to Cheer You Up
Release and Focus
Current events can overwhelm us. Perhaps the most powerful way to prevent overwhelm is by releasing what we can’t control and focusing on what we can control.
Release what I can’t control:
- How long the event or aftermath will last
- When the next event will happen
- Other people’s opinions
- Other people’s behavior
- Posts on social media, headlines
Focus on what I can control:
- My attitude
- How much I’m exposed to the news
- The time I spend online (consider setting a timer)
- Allowing myself to feel all the emotions
- The way I treat other people
- Whether I will donate time or money to help those in need or to support a cause
When to Consider a Professional Helper
A licensed mental health professional can help you set boundaries for yourself and others and develop techniques for coping with the stress our current events have on you. Consider enlisting help from a pro if you experience the following for more than two weeks:
- I’m unable to focus on things other than the issue/event.
- I’m struggling to disconnect from social media.
- I constantly talk about the issue or event, even when others aren’t responding to me.
- My sleep is disrupted.
- My reaction to the issue or event is affecting my relationships at work or home.
Editor’s Note: Deborah is a sociologist with over 21 years experience at The Counseling Place, a non-profit agency dedicated to strengthening emotional health in people of all ages. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin and her Master of Arts from the University of North Texas.