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How to look after your mental wellbeing in a crisis

Woman looking at phone
It's important to find balance while staying informed during a crisis.

In a crisis, the endless stream of news headlines can sometimes feel overwhelming. It’s on TV, social media, newspapers and magazines, and it’s often talked about in our social circles too. News is now 24/7, and we’re more connected to it than ever before.

While there are benefits to staying up-to-date with the news, too much can take a toll on our mental wellbeing. Here are a few ways to find balance while staying informed during a crisis.

Read trustworthy news sources

Anyone can publish information online, but that doesn’t make it true. Consider where you’re getting your news updates from – is it a reputable source? Who is best placed to provide accurate and up-to-date information on the issue? During health emergencies, the World Health Organization, the Australian Government Department of Health, and Queensland Health are best placed to provide you with the facts.

Set news limits

News is available everywhere, which means it can be hard to switch off. If you feel that you’re preoccupied by the news, consider setting yourself reasonable limits. You could:

  • Start your day by reading a book or going for a walk, rather than checking the news or your social media feed
  • Avoid checking the news before going to bed, especially on your phone or TV
  • Set a limit on how many times you check the news each day, and how long you spend reading about the issue
  • Delete your social media apps, turn off notifications or download an app that helps you limit social media use.

It’s understandable that conversations often revolve around current events but remember it’s ok to not want to talk about it all the time. Just make sure you’re not bottling up your feelings or concerns and seek support when you need it.

Woman puts phone aside and enjoys the outdoors

Read good news stories too

Alarming headlines are often front and centre when there’s a crisis but remember there’s still a lot of good happening all around us. If you’re checking for updates on the current event, try to read a good news story as well. Positive news doesn’t diminish a crisis, but it can help give us a sense of balance and support our mental wellbeing.

Keep perspective

Remember that crises swamp the headlines because they are so infrequent and out of the ordinary – this is what makes them newsworthy.

Worldwide, we have more knowledge and better technology than at any point in history. This means we’ve never been more prepared to handle crises than we are right now, and this capability will only continue to improve.

During the rare times when a crisis occurs, everyone has a role to play in achieving the best possible outcomes. Consider what is within your control and focus on what you can do to contribute in a positive way to those around you.

Helping children cope

During a crisis, heightened media coverage and ongoing conversations can be distressing for children. They may need help to understand what’s going on in a way that’s appropriate for their age and development.

How to help children cope during a crisis:

  • Limit the amount of media coverage children see, hear and read
  • If they do watch the news, be there to explain it to them
  • Let them know they can ask you questions anytime
  • Be honest and stick to the facts but don’t provide too much detail
  • Be aware of what you say when children are around
  • Monitor their reactions, and listen to how they feel and what they think
  • Point out the people working to fix the situation
  • Reassure them that they are safe.

Your own behaviour plays an important role in helping children deal with the current situation. It’s ok to share your own feelings but show your child that you are managing them. This can help them to build important life skills like resilience. If you are feeling distressed, discuss it with other adults rather than your children.

Father and son talking

When to get support

Most people will feel some distress during a crisis – this is normal, and usually resolves naturally within a matter of days or weeks.

If you’ve taken steps to support better mental wellbeing but are still feeling stressed, overwhelmed, worried, or just not like your normal self, it’s important to tell someone. This might be someone close to you like a family member, friend or colleague. You can also talk to your GP or a mental health professional, or you can also use this list to find a mental health support service in Queensland.

If you’ve noticed your child’s behaviour has changed or have concerns about their level of distress, seek help from your GP or other health professional.

Further information and resources

Last updated: 5 February 2020