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Mental resilience against the newsfeed

How do you manage your mental fitness in the face of the current news agenda? Here are some suggestions from my network.

The Germans have a word for feeling melancholy when this is caused by the reality of the world. It’s Weltschmerz.

I mention this because it was the topic of a catch up that I had this week with someone I mentor.

We both admitted being exhausted by the torrent of news and fake news on social media that has characterised the first week of the new White House administration.

“It seems to have been like this since the EU Referendum in the UK. How do you stay mentally fit,” she asked?

There’s no magic. I try to switch off, log off, and head outdoors.

I turned to Facebook and Twitter and asked people in my networks. Throughout the day friends and colleagues shared their ideas.

“We’re all different and I think if we take the time to reflect then we can build our own toolkit to not only manage our mental health but become stronger and more resilient,” said James Routledge, founder, Santus.

There’s something for everyone. I thought it was a beautiful collection of thoughts and ideas that deserved to be shared more widely.

There’s a note of word of caution from social media consultant Paul Sutton who I’ve got to know over the last few years and most recently while working on a #FuturePRoof project on mental health for the PRCA and ICCO. Our report is due to be published in February.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last dozen plus years of dealing with mental well-being is to talk.  We live in very troubling times for a number of reasons and the last year or so has been, to my memory, unprecedented,” said Paul Sutton.

“While it is therefore tempting to escape one’s worries […] failing to acknowledge one’s feelings and to address them openly can lead one down a very dark path.”

Thank you to everyone who contributed.

Mindfulness and meditation

Practice mindfulness. I recommend the Headspace app – Margaret Clow.

Daily meditation and trying to practice as much realistic Buddhism as possible – Jed Hallam.

Constructive engagement

Engage constructively. Write, connect people, and gather people. Rehearse ways to keep conversations across divides open. Ask questions – Kate Hammer.

Don’t obsess. Listen, empathise, engage, converse. Be respectful and ignore those that don’t respect you. Avoid the extremists and trolls – Rob Bruce.

Health and wellbeing

I’ve consistently found my physical fitness positively affects my mental state. Get outside, run more, and eat green stuff. The basics, really, that can easily be forgotten – Christian Cerisola.

Hydration and adequate sleep cannot be overstated in importance! Also–the practice of gratitude has promising links to both mental clarity and resilience – Amanda Kowal Kenyon.

Exercise regularly. Have outside interests that have nothing to do with current affairs – Paddy Blewer.

Occasionally I find somewhere secluded, throw my head back and scream at the universe until my throat hurts – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it – Paul Coxon.

Boundaries

Set boundaries: who and what supports you? Who and what drains you? Stay away from the latter – Penni Blythe.

Taking a break from social media for a few hours to do something productive/enjoyable to help you feel more positive again always helps – Steph Harland.

Each day I name one thing or person I am grateful for – or you can keep a gratitude diary. I also avoid toxic, negative people and environments as much as possible – Carol Rennard.

Reading

I have just read this helpful book called Rising Strong by Brene Brown. I don’t usually go for self-help books but this was recommended by a colleague. The author is an American Social Work researcher and the book is based on her research – Helen Stockwell.

Books enable me to get totally lost in a different world and emerge back into our world feeling stronger and inspired. I’ve just finished Valerio Massimo Manfredi’s Alexander trilogy. Drums of Autumn is next, the fourth in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series – Stuart Bruce.

Communities of action

Take small actions, protest, talk to like-minded people, and organise – Jemima Gibbons.

Don’t wallow in self-righteousness. Listen to other people, learn new things, constantly question – Tom Berry.

Friends and family

For me it’s about being less active in social media and spending time with people that inspire you – like kids, colleagues, partners and good friends. Discuss, challenge and communicate your values – Jonathan Bean.

Find trusted friends and talk – Maureen Webster.

Be kind to yourself, step back and be still in your own way and be with good, solid, fun people who feed your curiosity and make you laugh – Gabrielle Laine-Peters.

Laughter and dance

Humour. You have to keep your sense of humour. Create – make something – dinner, craft, words, art, anything. Time out, off grid. Music – Caroline O’Doherty.

Beer and laughter – Simon Bickmore.

Spending time with my kids. Laughing. Playing. Walking. Unplugging. Swimming. Wine. Singing. Dancing – Michelle Goodall.

Head offline and outdoors

Reflection and a good walk across mountains or coast – Patrick Fletcher.

Get away. Shut everything down and leave phone on desk. Then go running, walking or biking for 60 or 90 minutes – Rob Ashwell.

It’s important to escape regularly. Spend time in the gym, have dinner with friends, and argue about sport – Rebecca Zeitlin.

Critical thinking

I don’t react until I understand something as well as I can – Rich Leigh.

Typically, April Fools’ Day is the only day when we subject reports in mainstream media to critical analysis. Maybe we should do that more often – Quentin Langley.

Stay informed and try to separate fact from fiction. Eke out the positives from seemingly all negatives – Judy Gombita.

The actions taken by Trump, which lead to increased media coverage and societal upheaval, have overwhelmed my senses. However I feel that I can’t log off or disengage as this is the time we need active and engaged citizens of the world. At the same time, how do we ensure that Trump’s cognitive bombardment doesn’t paralyze us into non-action – Terry Flynn.

Read more considered, printed media, try not to be too attached to the reactionary nature of social media – Steve Cole.

Purposeful action

Do things that are in your control. Write your politicians and make your voice heard – it’s good activism, and it works, and it feels good to know you are doing more impactful than stressfully fretting. Participate in marches, create and carry signs, the media covers this stuff, and it makes a huge difference to feel that you are not alone – Steve Schuster.

Take action. Do something positive to make a difference. Even local, small actions have power – Sarah Raad.

Writing to my MP was a useful exercise. Forced me to be clear, calm, logical, work out exactly what I wanted to happen. I imagine writing down your feelings about current news, constructively, can help clarify and minimise feelings of helplessness – Pete Marcus.

I think we have to focus on what we can influence – so donate time and or money to local causes – Liz Skinner.

Time out

Take a step back from whatever is the issue/challenge and facing it with fresh eyes later. Taking the dog for a walk – Laura Sutherland.

Talking, thinking, being creative, breathing fresh air, surrounding yourself with those closest to you and switching off are essential – Rachel Miller.

Hobbies and craft

Putting mind to hobbies and friends as way of release is good – Charlie Southwell.

Knitting. I love it. Just try checking social media and news while you’re knitting – Katie Marlow.

Put energy in to what motivates you: a hobby, charity work, your job, a craft project – exercise the positivity you gain from it – Tim Hudson.

I find it helps to have a fun hobby, something that allows you to escape from reality for a bit – Gemma Storey.

Avoid filter bubbles

Read well researched stuff in and out your filter bubble. Join/support groups doing stuff not just marching or tweeting – Nigel Sarbutts.

Restrict Facebook and Twitter to finite pockets of time – Maja Pawinska Sims.

Recognise Twitter is instant and unfiltered, build personal resilience – Marcus Green.

I find shrinking the circle helps. Look after yourself, your close family, and restrict media consumption – Nicola Gibb.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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