I don't know why I do this to myself. If you are emotionally sensitive, have emotion dysregulation issues, or have Borderline Personality Disorder, I wonder if you can relate.
Over two weeks ago, I, like much of the world, was shocked and confused to learn that a commercial Boeing airplane carrying over 200 international passengers vanished. Knowing from past major news story coverage that I could count on CNN to be talking about this at any hour, I tuned in.
Although not much was known factually about the whereabouts of the plane, like so many others, I became fascinated with the story, intrigued by the theories, and glued to the screen awaiting any breaking news.
I noticed myself becoming quite emotional during the segments on the human side of this story -- the profiles of the passengers....their photos...their names... loved ones with hope and despair simultaneously consuming their hearts, talking about their missing loved ones in a mix of past and present tense. I cried. I even sobbed at one point. I imagined what it must be like to be in their shoes.
As a human being, I was empathizing. As an emotionally sensitive person who is prone to becoming dysregulated if triggered or overwhelmed while otherwise emotionally vulnerable (as I have been recently), I found my own mood being drastically affected by my routine of plopping on the couch and watching CNN each night since this story broke.
When my sleep became disrupted with bad dreams and my mood became ever more funky, I had to make a choice to change my habit and take better emotional self care. Here are my top 3 reasons why we need to stop watching the Malaysian Air story if we are emotionally sensitive and/or easily emotionally triggered and dysregulated:
1.) Your compassion and empathy can escalate into dysregulation. Emotionally sensitive people tend to care deeply for others. Repeated exposure to images of grieving and distraught family members can cause us to feel those emotions on some levels and disrupt our emotional well-being. It's okay to care. It's okay to feel for others. When it crosses the line of causing us to feel unbalanced and unwell, we must take care of ourselves. Only we can do this, and we must make it a priority.
2.) Not all of the facts are in. CNN and other stations are providing interesting theorizing and education on various aircrafts and flying, but the same emotional ups and downs that the families of these passengers are experiencing with the every changing and often contradictory news reports also has a psychological affect on those of us invested in following the story. It's okay to want to understand. It's okay to be curious. When it crosses the line into preoccupation or you are sacrificing other enjoyable activities because the story has sucked you in, it's time to bring back some balance and focus on things in our own lives for which we are grateful. Turn off the TV and self-soothe with a funny or cute video, do some art work, watch The Voice or whatever upbeat shows are on your TV or Neflix queue.
3.) In DBT, we learn a set of skills called Distress Tolerance. These are sometimes referred to as Crisis Survival skills. These skills are used when you cannot resolve an issue in the moment, and the issue is causing you distress. You employ these skills to help you tolerate the uncomfortable emotions while not making matters worse and while not sabotaging yourself in any way. We cannot resolve the issue of this devastating news story. If repeatedly watching this type of program is causing you emotional distress, some of the DBT strategies that may be effective in reducing your suffering are:
- Activities: engage in activities that take your mind off of the distressing matter, including housework, going for a walk, playing with a pet, doing some crafts, exercising
- Contributing: do something to help someone else
- Comparisons: count your blessings and note all that you are grateful for. While it may seem insensitive, remind and reassure yourself that you are not the one going through this crisis personally
- Emotions: Elicit opposite emotions to any anxiety, sadness, fear, or apprehension you may have. Watch funny tv shows, movies, and YouTube videos. Play upbeat music.
- Pushing Away: Tell yourself you will not think about this issue or watch anything on it at this time in order to improve your mental well-being. Distract and soothe yourself.
- Thoughts: Consciously and deliberately focus your thoughts elsewhere
- Sensations: Soothe through your five senses
Have you been caught up in this or another news story? Has it affected your mental well-being? How can you better take care of yourself during this time?
Thanks for reading.