On the 24th February 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine and reports of civilians fleeing their cities filled our news outlets as the world watched with horror and concern. 

As a society, we consume news more than ever before, with 24-hour broadcasts and constant streams on social media. Reports from war zones leave many people feeling distressed, even from thousands of miles away. This also leads to feelings of helplessness, as there is little we can do from afar. 

We put together this guide so you can engage with the news in a way that also looks after your mental health.

How to engage with news..

1. Take a break 

We all want to stay informed and be compassionate to what other people are facing in the world. We may even feel guilty if we are not giving the situation our full attention, mentally and emotionally.

This can take a serious toll on our minds, and it’s important we take breaks from the news to look after our mental health. Whether that’s for an hour, a day, a week, or longer if necessary.

It can be particularly helpful to take a break at the start and end of our day, as our minds can be more sensitive to the information we receive.

2. Avoid doomscrolling

Doomscrolling is when we spend an excessive amount of time absorbing negative news, which after a period of time can intensify fear and anxiety. To avoid this, only look at the news at certain times of the day for a limited duration and try not to break this routine.

3. Do something relaxing after consuming news

After consuming lots of news, our mind and body can feel heavy with tension and stress. A new activity helps manage the stress so we don't feel heavy all day. Movement, fresh air, social activities and calming breathing techniques can help with this.

4. Be conscious of the content you consume

It's important to monitor how much we consume graphic or violent content which may be triggering to our mental health.  It's also important to consume news from trusted publications to avoid any alarmist speculation. A useful tool when assessing whether a news story is trustworthy, is The Share Checklist.

5. Be mindful of notifications and social media

Notifications and news streams on social media can make it difficult to take breaks from the news. Consider changing notification settings on your phone so you can choose when to be updated with news. Also monitor which social media sites provide the most news coverage and limit time on these sites when necessary. 

What can you do to help?

When we feel overwhelmed, it helps to focus on the things we can control.

1. Help refugees in your area

Scottish Refugee Council provides information and resources if you are in Scotland and want to donate aid. Or if you are a Ukrainian worried about your situation and family members.

Visit Scottish Refugee Council for more information.

2. Donate to established humanitarian appeals

If you are able, consider donating to established humanitarian appeals such as the Ukraine Humanitarian appeal

The UK Government will match public donations to this appeal pound-for-pound up to £25 million. When donating to other charities, you can check the Charity Regulator to see if they are registered.

3. Support independent news outlets

Independent news outlets in Ukraine are reporting first hand accounts of the war, such as the Kyviv Independent

4. Search for local drop off points on social media

Local people are organising drop off points to donate supplies such as toilet paper and canned food which will be taken to Ukraine. Keep an eye out for shared posts on social media and use the search functions to find appeals.