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Diamonds, which humans prize above all other gemstones for their beauty and resilience, are formed deep beneath the Earth’s surface, where intense heat and pressure cause carbon atoms to crystallise. Intense pressure has the potential to affect spectacular transformation and build resilience within our own lives too – depending on how we are able to cope with that pressure. We’ve been chatting to two of our favourite wellbeing experts about how to grow resilience in the face of a news cycle that sometimes seems like one bad story after the next.

For many of us, the early 2020s have represented a period of stress and anxiety unlike anything we’ve experienced in the previous three decades. It’s there at an individual level, but also as a collective anxiety as we feed off each other’s worries and fears – like gathering up a lot of small individual campfires to create one giant, blazing forest fire. Further fanning the flames is our predilection for “bad” news stories, to which despite our better judgement we are somehow drawn.

Are you one of those people who felt compelled to bear witness each day to the 1pm news conference and the latest case numbers? Sure, there was an element of wanting to know if things were getting better, but was there also a sense of “how much worse has this thing got since the last time I checked”? If there’s a major disaster, do you scour online news sites for the tiniest of details, absorbing every tragic element of the story?

It’s an entirely human reaction to do so, but it also comes with some risk to our own mental health. The collection of resulting stress symptoms has even been given its own syndrome: “Headline Stress Disorder”. And it’s by no means a new phenomenon: the swift arrival of telegraphic news in the late 19th century, and the equally swift arrival of radio news in the 1920s were both linked to rises in “neurasthenia” (physical and mental exhaustion accompanied by headaches and irritability).

Sound familiar?

It’s all too easy to be sucked into doom-scrolling our various feeds, but is it possible to keep informed about what’s happening in the world without becoming mired in misery? Beautiful Conversations’ Melanie Medland says her approach to news consumption is simple: less is more.

“By saying ‘no’ to wholesale consumption of all available news content, you are creating the time, space, and energy to say ‘yes’ to the things that interest you and that you want to learn about. I personally try to avoid the news as much as I possibly can. I operate from the belief that if it’s important and I need to know about it then someone will tell me.”

Wellness guru Rachel Grunwell agrees that it’s important to manage your consumption, acknowledging that overdoing the gloom comes with a risk of spiralling into feeling overwhelmed.

“I don’t avoid bad news because I like to stay grounded in the world and informed, but I also recommend mixing up the news sites you read from and including some fun reading too – fashion, sport, food, entertainment – whatever helps to keep you feeling happier and more in balance.”

Of course, it can be difficult to avoid the bad news if you have friends who insist on sharing it with you. Melanie suggests a direct approach to this problem: “sometimes you’ve just got to be explicit and say something like, ‘I’m not interested in hearing about this. It’s too upsetting/demoralising/overwhelming [insert as appropriate] for me.’ I find most people are very respectful when I set clear boundaries.”

And what about our tamariki and rangatahi? It sometimes feels like it’s a big, bad world out there, so how can we talk to them about current events in a way that helps them feel safe while processing the sad and scared feelings that can arise?

“First of all, we need to acknowledge how they are feeling,” Melanie says. “If something has upset them, you can use that as an opportunity to explore their emotions.”

Rachel points out that we want to teach them problem-solving skills and encourage them to seek help if they need it, rather than supporting behaviours that numb them and take the edge off pain, discomfort and vulnerability. “Encourage them to do things that help them to manage stress and feel good in a healthy way: practise gratitude, learn mindfulness, and adopt behaviours that help them to feel joyful, connected, and happier, while letting them know that it’s okay to feel sad and other emotions.”

Both Rachel and Melanie are strong believers in using exercise to help dump stress and release hormones related to the exercise ‘high’. “I also schedule ‘me time’ after exercise where I mindfully drink a coffee, pause and take time to feel grateful, and excited about my day,” Melanie adds.

Self-care practices are vital for well-being, and Melanie notes that it’s important that we encourage our young people to adopt their own self-care practices that make them feel good. “Meditation or mindfulness, moving your body every day, preferably outside, connecting with the people you love, doing something that makes you laugh, smiling at others and yourself. I also journal morning and night, which allows me to reinforce my successes, and I am careful to monitor my self-talk and change it up if I’m feeling it’s not as supportive as it could be.”

These practices are reflected in hauora, which is a Māori practice of health and wellbeing. The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand | Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora incorporates the principles of hauora into its five essential components to wellbeing:

  • Me whakawhanaunga (Connection)
  • Me ako tonu (Keep learning)
  • Tukua (Giving)
  • Me kori tonu (Be active)
  • Me aro tonu (Take notice)

Balance is everything, Melanie and Rachel agree. “Strong feelings treated with curiosity lead to awesome insights,” Melanie points out. “Guiding our rangatahi through the effects news and world events have on us is a really important piece of proactive parenting. Don’t think that by not discussing something, they won’t know about it – they probably will have talked it over with their friends if it’s important and will have come to their own conclusions.”

“We need to be balanced and appropriate with how we talk about the things that are happening in the world, because how the news actually pans out is ultimately less important than how we guide them for building the resilience they will need in their lives.”