Connect with the World’s Suffering Without Overwhelm
I went on a month-long news fast last year. The state of our world — including the war in Ukraine, mass shootings, and environmental crisis — was so painful that I felt very hurt, overwhelmed, and discouraged. Although I cared a lot about others’ pain, keeping up with non-stopping tragic events wore me out. I had to find better ways to consume news to stay connected with the world’s suffering without feeling weary about taking action for a better world.
The month-long fast gave me time to create a 3-part strategy. 1) Obtain news from an unbiased, reputable source that reports facts without sensational headlines, provoking images, excess ads, and eye-catching design. 2) limit reading news to once a week. 3) combine news reading with compassion practice. Here are the details:
Visit the AP News website every Monday to stay informed about the world: AP News (reported by the Associated Press) is one of the most unbiased, fact-based news sources. I like their website’s simple layout, neutral color scheme, non-sensational headlines, and broad coverage. It is a good news site for sensitive people.
Hold victims of tragic events in my heart: I often pause while reading about violence, poverty, environmental disaster, and other tragedy. I then embrace victims in my heart with compassion. The respected mindfulness teacher, Sharon Salzberg, wrote, “I would never suggest meditation, prayer, positive thoughts as a replacement for action. But I know I need to connect to something bigger, repeatedly, to have the energy to keep acting.” Love is the source of healing and power. My compassion practice helps me not distance myself from others’ pain and strengthen my will to take action for social change.
Focus on the big picture: I avoid reading details of tragic events (which overwhelms me) and try to learn what caused them and what can be done to reverse or improve the situations. I then think about how I can contribute to a better world using my strengths and resources.
Accept and have peace with my limitation: I can’t help everyone. I need to pick the causes that speak to me the most (e.g., gun violence, poverty) and take action in the fields. I trust other people will tackle other issues — it’s a team play. I focus on the people I can help and let go of the guilt of not helping others. It’s the same mentality I try to have when spotting more than a few homeless people and picking up multiple solicitation mail.
My new strategy has been working well for me. I can now follow the news without feeling overwhelmed and helpless. You may want to try it too.
Are you feeling weary about mass shootings? The article I wrote for Texas Gun Sense (NPO), Rise from Hopelessness to Action, suggests steps for shifting from being overwhelmed to joining the force that creates a safer society.