hope

If reading the news is dragging you down into despair

There is a lot of awful news right now. In times like these, it’s important to have strategies for avoiding despair.

One strategy I’ve seen discussed a lot is limiting your exposure to the news. For instance, some people have decided not to read the news at night. This can be a really good strategy for some people — but it doesn’t work well for everyone.

If you keep telling yourself “I should really read the news less”, then reading the news constantly anyway, it may be that you need a different strategy.

For some people, the way to avoid despair involves reading the news *more*, not less. When the headlines are horrifying, it can make it seems like the world is made of horrors. It can take a lot more digging to find out that it is possible to fight the horrors. It can take a lot more digging to learn that some things are good, and that progress is still possible.

For instance, if you’re reading a terrifying news article about vote suppression in the South, find out which organizations are fighting for voting rights. Learn the stories of people who have fought for their right to vote and won. Learn specifics about the battles being fought now, and the people who are fighting them. Knowing this kind of context can help, a lot.

More generally: When you find that despair-inducing news is dragging you down, seek out context that goes beyond the horrors. The horrors are real, and so is everything else.

If all the stories you read are about horrifying policies, opposition can seem imaginary. Make sure you read enough about the opposition to understand that it’s real.

Similarly, wins are as real as losses. If all the stories you read are about losing, winning will seem imaginary. Make sure you also read enough about wins to understand that winning is a real thing.

(It also helps to take partial victories or near-victories seriously.)

Tl;dr When you’re reading a lot of news and feeling a lot of despair, sometimes the solution is to read the news less — and sometimes the solution is to read *more* of the news. When you only read stories about evil, good can seem imaginary. If you also seek out stories about people who fight evil, and about wins as well as losses, it can make it much more clear that goodness exists. For some people, that is the best strategy for avoiding despair in times when a lot of the news is horrifying.

Don’t give up

There’s a lot of upheaval in the American political system right now. 

Donald Trump is violating political norms in ways that we haven’t seen before. In ways that are both dangerous and confusing.

Most people are disoriented — including people who work in government and politics. 

No one has experience dealing with this. No one is very good at it yet. 

Getting good at things takes time. We’re still learning to deal with this new reality.

But a lot of people care deeply about this country and the world. A lot of good people are working to figure it out.

Republicans are reacting to disorientation one way; Democrats are reacting another way. But they’re all figuring things out, and there are good people in both parties.

A lot of awful things are happening — and a lot of people are working to make good things happen. 

It’s hard, but it’s not hopeless. It’s frightening — but we should not let fear become despair. 

If we don’t give up, we can figure out what to do. 

Appreciation can create hope

Right now, a lot of people are feeling hopeless — and are feeling that maybe nothing they do matters. This kind of despair is dangerous. 

If there are things you appreciate about someone, now is a good time to tell them about it. If someone does things that you appreciate, now is a good time to tell them what those things are and what they mean to you.

When it’s hard for people to remember that their actions matter, hearing from people they matter to can make all the difference.

People who you appreciate may be having a very hard time believing that their actions make any difference right now. (Actually, this is always the case, but especially in times like these). Telling people what they mean to you can help them find ways to keep going.

Even when people seem popular and confident, it’s worthwhile to let them know  that they and their actions matter to you is worthwhile. Being visible and projecting confidence can be exhausting. Hearing that what you do matters to others can make all the difference. It’s less exhausting when you’re reminded that it’s worth it, and that what you do means something to someone.

Don’t assume that it goes without saying. If you don’t tell people about what you appreciate, they often don’t know. People can’t read your mind, and they may well not know. Even if they do, the reminder is often helpful. 

(A caveat here: This doesn’t suspend the usual rules of boundaries. If someone’s blocked you or otherwise indicated that they don’t want contact, leave them alone. Don’t make sexual comments or comment on people’s bodies unless you’re in a relationship in which you have ongoing consent to do that. Etc. And if you’re not sure about boundaries and want help, send an ask.)

tl;dr A lot of people are fighting through a fog of despair right now. If you tell people what you appreciate about them and/or their actions, it can clear up a lot of fog and help them to find hope again. Being reminded that you matter and your actions mean something to someone can make all the difference.