Positivity is contagious!

How to help young people cope and stay positive despite continual bad news.

It seems hard to escape from the continual news cycle which has been dominated by distressing images, videos, reports and social media content about the conflict in Ukraine and the flooding in Queensland and New South Wales. Not to forget the ongoing pandemic that remains in the background, re-emerging constantly.

The increased saturation of media and social media whenever something bad happens in the world can be overwhelming for young people, especially when good news stories are rarely reported. When bad news saturates the media, it can be really hard not to be affected. Young people may begin to feel down about the world and this can impact their wellbeing and lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, fear, confusion, helplessness and even anger.

Why does bad world news affect us?

The pandemic, with continual lockdowns has demonstrated that it’s easy for young people to feel disconnected. When we are then confronted with more world tragedy, feelings of worry, sadness and grief can begin to emerge; these feelings can be more common than you might think.

When we see upsetting information, our bodies react by releasing stress hormones to deal with the negative emotions. As news outlets can also be skewed towards reporting bad news over good news, this can create long-term adverse effects on our wellbeing.

The following tips help young people reflect on the impact world news has on them, as well as developing individual coping strategies they can put into action.

Learn to switch off

It’s easier said than done, but taking a break from social media and the news is invaluable;

  • Try going for a walk, reading a book, listening to music or a podcast, playing a game, or just being outside in the fresh air
  • Schedule blocks of time that are free from social media
  • Enjoy more time with family and friends.

Rethink the news sources young people are exposed to

  • Is the news focused on the truth?
  • Is it fair and not aiming to influence a young person’s understanding?

Encourage young people to understand their level of control, when things feel out of their control. Feeling helpless is a natural response, but it is also one that can cause stress.

  • Help young people to understand their realm of influence in what they have control over
  • Help young people to reflect on the impact of news, describing how it makes them feel and create an individual action plan to help them feel less overwhelmed.

These strategies can aid resilience-building. They can give hope to recover quickly from difficulties and help us withstand adversity and adapt to changing environments.  It is not simply about bouncing back, but rather moving forward, stronger and brighter with further experience and newfound wisdom.

There are many ways to develop a sense of positivity;

  • Show gratitude and appreciation
  • Maintain a positive outlook
  • Keep things in perspective
  • Make connections with others for support
  • Re-frame insurmountable obstacles as challenges to overcome and grow from
  • Set realistic goals and take steps toward them

Helping young people develop the ability to adapt and to maintain a growth mindset will help them thrive in an ever-changing world.

Liz & Lauren
College Counsellors