The 24-hour news cycle needs to be fed. It loves to be fed with a juicy story, a sick burn from one candidate to another, a funny moment, or a hot topic that takes off on Twitter. But, the cycle is also fed by tragedy. It seems it’s often fed by tragedies that become wall-to-wall breaking news moments.
This week, the news cycle has been filled with images of black death. Painful images of black men dying at the hands of police and the intense protests that seem to always follow. Friday, 40-year-old Terence Crutcher was tending to his broken down vehicle when he encountered police in Tulsa. Not long after, he was shot dead, his body lying in the road while helicopter and police dashboard cameras captured it all.
Keith Lamont Scott was killed Tuesday while waiting for his son to step off a school bus, something locals said he did every day. Family members say Scott had a disability and was recently involved in a motorcycle accident. Police were looking for someone else when they encountered Scott. The exchange would prove deadly and touch off two nights of protests in Charlotte.
Details in both cases are still emerging, but the combination of the 24-hour news cycle and the prevalence of social media have given rise to an inescapable bombardment of images many of us would rather not see on an incessant video loop.
As the PBS Newshour surmised earlier this summer following the videotaped police-involved shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, “when black death goes viral, it can trigger PTSD-like trauma.”
Dashcam and cell phone videos play on a continuous loop on sites like Facebook and Vine. Images captured from those encounters become memes on Twitter and Instagram for all the world to see — repeatedly.
In an attempt to limit watching those painful videos, many social media users have vowed to no longer share such images of black death. And they’ve called for others to follow suit.
Dr. Pamela Brewer, a licensed clinical social worker and host of the MyNDTALK podcast, told Rare that “to live in a frightened, angry, furious, terrified state is harmful.”
Brewer says there are things you can do to practice self-care in the midst of ongoing violence and tragic events. She offers five tips on how to best take care of yourself.
Live in reality
“Recognize the truth of the world in which we live. People are going to make snap judgments — often about you — and often wrong. Their judgments about you are typically based on their limitations, not your truth or your worth. You don’t have to try to explain, argue, justify the truth about you to people who aren’t interested in listening or learning.”
Set your own filters & take a break
“Decide how much news/internet/television you will take in for the day. Try to make it at least under an hour. Try to avoid news first thing in the morning or last thing at night. You neither need to start or end your day with the violence or nonsense that has become all too commonplace.”
“It is OK (even recommended) to take a day away from the media, work, chaos — and enjoy being you.”
Make your home your refuge
“Make your home — wherever, whatever and however it is — a place of peace and respite. Reduce clutter, it only promotes anxiety. Pay attention to the colors, the sounds, and the feel of your home.”
Stay close to friends
“Check in with people whom you trust and care about regularly. Express your feelings to those who care about you and ‘get it!’”
Don’t fight your feelings
“When you find your frustration and anger seeming to well up to uncomfortable proportions, do not try to squash your feelings. Find someone to talk to or sit with, even if you sit in silence. Do not try to go through these days and times alone. Do not try to stop the tears or erase the exhaustion, but do determine to create healthy alternative activities for yourself. There are times when the height of anger and despair pave the way to heights of creativity, determination and positive, powerful action.”
Brewer’s suggestions are echoed by Twitter users who called for people to exercise self-care and find healing and joy, despite it all.
Brewer says the constant images are enough to make you “frightened, angry, furious [and] terrified.” But, she adds, there are ways to fight back and remain alive.
“Write/journal/mentor/join a group of similarly situated people who are dedicated to healthy change. You do not have to be still. You do not have to be silent. You do have to be alive. Your life does matter.”