The news coming from Ukraine recently is devastating. You may feel afraid or heartbroken as you watch footage of violence breaking out.
Global tragedies are tough to process. Many of us feel overwhelmed by current world events but unsure of how to deal with the grief and dread we experience.
Recently, I was chatting with my adult kids about Ukraine and how we all empathize with the Ukrainian people. We discussed how it’s not possible to care about every single thing that we learn about. As humans, we simply don’t have the emotional, mental or spiritual capacity to pay attention to everything that’s going on in the world. We can’t care about all the things all of the time.
I remember at the beginning of the pandemic, watching the national news about the virus and hearing about the number of cases and the climbing number of deaths. There were times I just felt overwhelmed. Things were still happening around us such as a kidnappings or murder or elections, and I wondered, how do I choose what I need to care about? Should I care about this or about that?
There was a time I reached my capacity for caring; although, my heart really went out to everyone affected by these tragedies. For my own mental health, I had to limit how much news I was watching. I realized that I can’t fix the world. But I could pray, ask the Father to lead my heart and my prayers, and be at peace about that.
Christians have many reasons to be hopeful: we are loved by God, made equal in Christ, and filled with God’s Spirit. As Paul writes in Romans 5:5 (NIV), “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Yet it is impossible to feel hopeful all the time. If you are struggling to maintain hope for the future, you are not alone. Setting aside time for rest and self-care can help you feel more hopeful again.
To preserve our own mental, emotional and spiritual health, we have to make some choices about where to direct our energy.
Staying Informed Without Becoming Overwhelmed
In our technologically advanced societies, we are constantly surrounded by information—news, advertisements, entertainment. If you drive down the highway, you’ll see billboards advertising many products and places. You may receive more emails or notifications on your phone than you can read, ranging from urgent to irrelevant.
Tuning out difficult news is not possible in such a highly connected world. Even if it were, shutting yourself off from the challenges of others is not a sustainable long-term strategy for peace or justice.
Praying to the Father on the behalf of his disciples, Jesus addressed our relationship to society. In John 17:15-18 (NIV), Jesus said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”
Using this passage as an example of how Christians should interact with our social world, we see the goal is not to ignore current events. Instead, we need to protect our mental and emotional health and encourage ourselves with truth.
The hope we cultivate is useful as God sends us out in the world to help others. But how do we gain this spiritual perspective during difficult times?
Knowing Your Information Limit
Limiting the amount of information you consume is a helpful strategy for avoiding overwhelm. We recommend setting boundaries for yourself around the times you check in with the outside world. Anything from email and text messages to your favorite news channel or app can disrupt your peace.
Pursuing truth helps protect us from false information and unnecessary concerns. You may find value in limiting your news sources to a couple reputable sources. Look for stories that are well-researched and transparent about their subjective point of view.
Being mindful not to check the news during a challenging mental health day can help prevent further overwhelm and anxiety.
Self-Care Practices for a Challenging Season
Practicing self-care is essential for your mental health, especially during difficult times.
It is not possible to be fully informed about all current events, as your energy each day is limited. Not every notification that comes across your screen deserves your attention.
Reclaim your time with activities that allow you to turn your attention inward. Setting aside some time for yourself in the morning can help you feel more centered.
When you wake up, allow for a few minutes of quiet before you start scrolling through social media or responding to messages. Ground your focus with practices like journaling, reading scripture, praying, meditating, or exercising.
There are many simple and affordable ways to get away from the chaos of the world for a short time. Seek out opportunities for an intentional retreat from stressful situations. Active rest can include taking a long bath, going on walks around your neighborhood, going for a hike, swimming, or riding a bike.
If you have the chance, spend time visiting or talking to friends, family, and members of your community. If you feel anxiety, write out your thoughts or speak to a loved one about how current events are affecting you.
If you are struggling with mental health challenges, reach out to a trusted professional. There is no shame in needing additional support right now.
Caring for Others Without Losing Your Peace
Some Christians worry that self-care is selfish, but the opposite is true. Self-care practices restore the energy we need to help others. As Jesus told his followers in Mark 12:31 (NIV), “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The quality of our care for ourselves is connected to how well we care for others.
The hope we have as Christians is not only for our personal well-being but for the redemption and renewal of all creation. God calls us to speak peace to the storms of life, including wars, unrest, and illness.
Global tragedies are overwhelming, but with God’s help, there are small actions we can take to make a difference in someone’s life.
Remember that the compassion you feel for others is a reflection of God’s image in you. The discomfort you feel when you see violence and heartbreak on the news is the spark of God’s love for others rising up within you.
When your mental health is unstable, take some time away from stressful information or situations. But as you start feeling more grounded, you can find opportunities to bless others who are facing difficult circumstances.
Fight fear with hope by listening to the Spirit’s guidance. The voice of truth will lead you to people you can impact and places where you can share the hope of God’s love.
Author: Anna Harris