Posted: Jul 22, 2013 10:00 AM
Do tragic news stories affect you deeply, especially when they involve children? We asked experts if hearing about horrible tragedies can actually have an effect on our moods and how we can cope.

Over the past six months, several tragedies have rocked our nation. Every day, regional headlines bring tragedy on a smaller scale. If the news has been making you feel depressed, anxious or fearful, you're not alone. Learn how headlines can make your life harder, and what you can do to break out of the resulting moods.

Why does the news upset us?

There is no simple answer or universal way that individuals react to bad news. Events in the news can trigger feelings of trauma or anxiety, especially for those who have experienced trauma in the past. For parents, reading about children being harmed or killed can be especially upsetting. Bad news can increase instances of intrusive thoughts. Even if you don't have an existing mood disorder, bad news can affect your outlook on life. "We live in an age where the news can be accessed from a multitude of sources and devices. The world is filled with minute-to-minute, hourly and daily news," says therapist Tamara Hill. This saturation of news, including bad news from all over the world, isn't always a good thing.

Feel better: Unplug

You don't have to watch every news report, every day.

"The news will be there the next time you tune in. You don't have to watch every news report, every day," says Hill. She recommends limiting yourself, even if it means having to use a timer. Don't feel like you have a duty to watch coverage or learn every detail when something bad has happened. Tune out and find a healthy distraction, such as going for a walk or listening to calming music.

Feel better: Take action

Psychotherapist Anna Ranieri recommends fighting feelings of helplessness and despair by finding ways to take action. "To overcome the depressive effects of feeling helpless and hopeless after a violent shooting, for example, one could become active in the gun control movement," she says. If tragedy has affected your area, find out if you can volunteer or donate goods. Donating cash to relief organizations after disaster may also help you cope with your feelings.

Feel better: Find others to talk to

Ranieri suggests talking to others about events in the news. "As you compare notes with friends or colleagues, you gain social support, you see that others have similar responses and you discover that there are other concerned people out there," she says. However, if events in the headlines are actively causing you stress and anxiety, you may be better off finding other subjects to discuss to take your mind off things.

Feel better: Get help from a professional

If you feel overwhelmed, hopeless or in any way unable to deal with the news, don't hesitate to seek help. Let someone know you're struggling. Lifeline Crisis Chat is available at all times. Be especially aware of a need for help if you have existing issues that have been triggered. "Consult a professional helper such as a psychotherapist or clergy member if old issues have arisen for you," says Ranieri. "It may be time to address them so that your mood doesn't plummet as readily when you read bad news."

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