By Barbara Markway Ph.D.
How sensitive people can take care of themselves in the face of bad news.
Sensitive people need to guard against sensory overload in the face of tragic news stories. Here are some things that may help.
Expect that Your Reactions Will Be More Intense:
Simply knowing that you may react more strongly than others can help. Expect that emotions may come and go, and last longer than for other people.
Don’t Beat Up on Yourself for Your Sensitivity:
For years I had a love-hate relationship with my sensitivity, but I’m finally starting to accept it. It’s likely that your temperament simply makes you wired to experience things deeply. This can be a good thing, but obviously proves trying when tragic events happen.
Limit or Eliminate TV/Visual News Sources:
Sensitive people are more likely to become over-stimulated with visual images. It’s easier to control the amount of news you’re taking in when it’s in written form.
Soothe Your Senses:
Listen to quiet music, take a hot bath, or light a scented candle. I like to sit with my dogs in my lap and watch a candle flicker in the window.
Call a friend, your spouse, a parent, or anyone with whom you feel close. Connection with others will calm your nervous system—even if you’re an introvert.
Practice Your Faith:
If you believe in prayer, pray. If you practice loving-kindness meditation, this is the perfect time for it. Anything that connects you with a sense of something larger will help soothe the raw edges.
Avoid If You Need To:
In general, we’re told not to avoid our feelings. But for people who are sensitive, sometimes it’s just too much to feel everything all at once. By all means, if you need to temporarily escape in a way that doesn’t harm you, give yourself permission to do so.
Focus on the Helpers:
This quote went viral after the Newtown shootings, and I can see why. It gives people something concrete and positive to think about.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers
Recognize that this is a difficult time for yourself. It’s hard being a sensitive person in this world and feeling things so deeply. Give yourself what you need. Be a good friend to yourself.