The drama in Syria captivates much of the world. We sit and watch horrified as innocent civilians and children suffer. The pictures coming out of the devastated city are truly heart-wrenching and the fabric that nightmares are created out of. As if to add to that unbelievable suffering, a bomb exploded in a Coptic church in Cairo, Egypt targeting women and children. Their only crime was going to attend the morning liturgy in church. In Germany, another bomb blast detonated in a Christmas village killing shoppers. Around the world, atrocities cry out, and the earth calls out for justice. Many of us watch in shock, plunging into sadness because we are helpless to do anything to halt the turmoil happening around the world.
It is very easy to fall into depression watching the news, but this is not helpful for anyone. We need to watch with open minds and hearts. But when it is overwhelming us, we need to take a break. We are still among the living and have a life to live. While the homage we may show to those killed is a great tribute, those who died have moved on and so should we.
What can we do to stay mentally strong in the face of horrifying news?
1. Know when to walk away. If the news is bringing you down and making you depressed, click it off for a while. You are not helping anyone or yourself by being drawn into terrible events in which you are powerless. And make sure you are getting real news. Just because you saw something on TV or read about it online does not make it true. Media is filled with so much fake news these days.
2. Realize that you have limited power and it is not your fault. Watching the news out of Syria the past several days, I saw pictures of many small kids that I wanted just to go and pull out of that suffering. If militaries can’t get in, there is nothing physical you can do.
3. Advocate. Social media has been full of stories and pictures of the atrocities going on over the past few weeks. You don’t need to become the poster child for a cause, but just educating others of what is happening can help. The more people who know, the more likely action will be taken. I honestly believe that the evacuations out of Aleppo were forced by the fury growing on social media. The authorities were unable to hide anything or turn away. Those crying out against the horror were too loud for them to close their ears.
4. Donate. People lost their homes, their friends, much of their possessions and even family members. They lost the city that they loved. In other areas outside Syria, many people are cold, hungry, homeless and suffering. You don’t need to give to every cause and don’t need to feel bad if you can’t give much or at all. Choose a cause, and you can make a difference. And if you don’t have money, like many people at this time of the year, give a few hours of your time. These charitable organizations are always understaffed. Be sure the ones you decide to give to are legitimate, though. Sadly, even in the face of tragedy, swindlers are still at their jobs.
5. Pray. If you believe, pray to the god you believe in. If you are not a religious person, just send some good thoughts or kind words the way of those suffering. We are all needed to make the world a better place.
6. Be kind. Social media has changed the way we communicate with others around the world. This past week, Twitter allowed me to tweet with some people trapped inside Aleppo. I tried to offer any encouraging words that I could. When people feel all hope is lost, one kind word may help them to hold on. It doesn’t matter what we believe, what race we are, where we were born, our education or socioeconomic status, we are all human and made of the same fiber.
While many suffer, we can make a difference. Sadness should not be the result of watching the news. It should inspire us to become better and care for our neighbors near and far. It is very easy to be drawn into the despair others are suffering. If we get dragged too deep, it is time to jump out. Staying mental fit while following the news is a balancing act and we all need to figure out our drowning points.
Linda Girgis is a family physician who blogs at Dr. Linda.
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