Violent News & Weather Coverage: Strategies for Staying Both Informed & Emotionally Safe

Intense news and weather reports are nothing new to our experience. However, in the past couple of weeks, we have encountered some particularly violent events including tornadoes that have wiped out portions of entire towns and a devastating school shooting in Nashville.

One challenging mental health aspect of these events is the increasingly transparent media coverage, released raw information/footage, and reduced choice over how much we see and know. Thus, as the strategies and permissions behind media coverage continue to evolve, it is important to consider how to responsibly keep ourselves informed, but also as mentally and emotionally safe as possible.

Violent News & Weather Coverage: Strategies for Staying Both Informed & Emotionally Safe Anne Rulo Partners in Prevention

Violent News Coverage

In truth, the motivation for this particular article came from my own recent, real-life experiences with 1) friends who deal with weather fear and 2) the Nashville school shooting. Only a few days after three children and three staff members were killed at Covenant School, I found myself in a hospital waiting room for my own child’s surgery. And, while her medical procedure was fairly minor, as a parent I was of course a little anxious.

As I walked through the hospital and sat in the waiting room I was unable to avoid looped video footage of the Nashville school shooter walking the halls of the school wielding a large assault weapon. These images did not serve to lower my anxiety and, I had been trying so hard to avoid the embedded videos, 911 call logs, and images for my own mental/emotional safety. The lack of control over what I heard and saw in a public space felt defeating.

Violent News & Weather Coverage: Strategies for Staying Both Informed & Emotionally Safe

Of course, it is important to understand what is going on in our world. However, it is also important to understand how we can stay informed without being traumatized. Here are some strategies for managing violent news coverage:

  • Know your personal limits. Reading/viewing something once is sometimes enough. It is not essential to expose your mind and emotions repeatedly to information to understand an experience. Everyone has their own capacity to manage this type of input.
  • You can care without being “fully aware.” This is a hard one for empaths like me. I am deeply aware that, unlike the parents who lost their children that day, I have the privilege of not being immersed in that experience. However, sometimes we feel as though we must be able/willing to look at all the pain to fully honor it. However, no one is served by us being wounded or triggered on their behalf. The human heart can care without being fully submerged in the trauma.
  • Disengage as necessary. In my situation, I can’t unsee what I saw that day. But I did move to a different area of the waiting room and for the days prior, I read enough to know what happened and then stayed off the news until the footage slowed down.

Severe Weather Coverage

Severe weather is another aspect of the news that can be triggering. Of course, not everyone has a strong reaction to potential severe weather but, for those that do, it can be an overwhelming experience of anxiety…

To finish reading tips to manage emotional safety during severe weather coverage, link here. Thanks to Partners in Prevention at the University of Missouri for our continued partnership to publish this type of content!

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