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Coping with distressing news events

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Coping with distressing news events

I've had a lot to do today, but I keep drifting back to the internet: scanning social media, reading think-pieces, looking for updates.

I can’t stop reading The News.

For me it’s the growing unease between the US and North Korea, but we’ve all had days when news events are hard to cope with.

A disaster or some other upsetting global event can dominate our thoughts and feelings, our private and public conversations, for at least a few days. And with 24/7 news just a click or tap away, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed.

So how do we cope with upsetting information in the news?

While everyone has their own ways of managing stressful news events, they tend to fall under three basic human needs: control, connection and comfort.


One of the most distressing aspects of a negative global event is that it’s out of our control. To restore your sense of control, you could:

  • focus on what you can control — everyday tasks, work, relationships
  • take control of what you see — log off for a while, use mute filters on social media, decide which news sources you want to see or not see and stick to it
  • read items that put the event in perspective, that give you context and meaning, and seek informed analysis rather than shocking details
  • do something good today — pay for a stranger’s coffee, tip a waiter, compliment someone, give up your seat on the train — add something great to the world.


Distress can be isolating — we can get wrapped up in our thoughts and feelings. To make and maintain meaningful connections:

  • express yourself — use social media, comment on a news article, chat with people you know about your feelings
  • call your loved ones — talk to your family, your friends, whoever you need to feel close to, just to hear their voice and have them hear yours
  • talk about the event — if that’s where the conversation goes, vent to your loved ones
  • don’t talk about the event — it’s okay to steer clear of it altogether if what you need is some event-free social time.


It’s okay to need soothing, and to actively seek it out. To find calm:

  • avoid the topic — you don’t have to keep up with the event. If it’s more calming to stay away, log off
  • keep up with the topic — for some people, staying abreast of the latest news is calming. If that’s you, go for it, but be careful not to overload
  • find positive stimuli — surround yourself with your favourite things, like comfort food, your all-time most-loved movie, book or TV show, your hobbies
  • relieve tension — when our mindsbecome tense, so do our bodies. Relieve your physical tension with deep-breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation or meditation

Everyone needs to feel control, connection and comfort in the aftermath of shocking events. Find it for yourself and, if you can, offer it to the people around you.

Finally, if you’re still struggling to cope in the face of upsetting news events, or for any reason, reach out for help. There are crisis line numbers and links on this page.

Lifeline telephone counselling
13 11 14 (24 Hrs)
Suicide Call Back Service
1300 659 467 (24 Hrs)
Kids Helpline
1800 55 1800 (24 Hrs)
Blue Knot Foundation Helpline provides help, information, support or referral for adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse, their partners, family and friends, health professionals and anyone in the workplace working with people who have experienced childhood trauma and abuse.
1300 657 380 (9am-5pm AEST / 7 days a week)
SANE Australia
1800 187 263 (10am-10pm AEST / weekdays)


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