How to Engage in the Issues Without Going to the Dark Place (in 3 Easy Steps!)

How to Engage in the Issues Without Going to the Dark Place (in 3 Easy Steps!)

The news has been kind of a dumpster fire lately. It’s like a parade of horrors; one tragedy after the next. We are constantly being bombarded with stories, recordings, videos, hot takes and urgent pleas. With our limited capacities, it’s incredibly difficult to process the sheer volume of heartbreaking stories we encounter on a daily basis. Further, social media can overload us with hundreds of rash opinions in a mere day. Sometimes, that’s an amazing, enriching thing. Other times, it’s paralyzing. We want to care about and help every cause, and desperately so! 

“How can I just turn away from what’s happening in the world? It feels callous!” I once asked my therapist through hot tears. It was our first month together in October of 2016. The election had taken over my life. I was completely consumed with politics, the news; the travesty of it all. So much so that I was having a mental breakdown over it.

I was resistant to take her advice to step back. I couldn’t see a path out. I was fully committed to the endless scrolling. The way I saw it, there were only two ways of doing things: there was watching it all unfold, second-by-second, and never taking my eye off the ball, lest the other team get one past me. Or, there was the second option of burying my head in the sand and pretending none of it was happening at all. You know, becoming “apolitical.” HARD FEMINIST KILLJOY PASS.

Thankfully, over many months, I found an in-between. Now, I’m spending less time scrolling and more time taking action. It turns out, you don’t need to disengage from the world around you to save your sanity. You just need to establish better boundaries so you can meaningfully contribute to the causes you care most about. Here’s how:   


Step 1: Pick three things you can do.


Pick just three things (for now!) that you can do to help. They can be small things or large things. Think about your next few days. What do you realistically have time and energy for? Some actions will take just a few moments, while others require a lot of time and work. If you only have time for one thing, choose just one thing! Don’t overload yourself. Pick something you can manage without taking an express train to Overwhelm City. Here are just a few ideas of how you can help a cause:

  • Volunteer
  • Offer professional services/your expertise pro bono to a non profit
  • Call your representative
  • Spread GOOD INFORMATION on social media to inform others
  • Create art that furthers the cause
  • Write an op ed/blog post/social media post
  • Make a donation of money or goods
  • Attend a rally or protest
  • Write a letter
  • Participate in a postcard campaign
  • Reach out to friends and start a conversation/involve them


Step 2: Purposefully set aside time to study the issue.


To maintain your mental health, you should intentionally set boundaries with how much media you consume — and when. This means purposely choosing a time when you are feeling strong and grounded to study up on, and engage with the issues you care about. It really is ok to give yourself some time before diving in. If you can’t handle the 24/7 media circus, save yourself the anxiety and step away. Especially if it’s a topic that’s triggering for you. You can lose entire days thanks to seeing information you weren’t ready for on social media.

Wait for the slow take. Experts are out there being paid to weed through the b.s. so you don’t have to. Reading one well-researched article can keep you better informed than hundreds of hot takes; especially since many of them rely on unverified information. I know it all feels vitally urgent. But the truth is, if the issue is really serious, it will still need you tomorrow. And thanks to your amazing boundaries, you’ll be healthy and stable enough to actually help the cause.

So, once you’re ready, read a few different well-reported articles from trusted news sources. Check out that link posted by your friend who reads EVERYTHING and loves to use the caption “if you read one thing today, let it be this.” Get the facts. Seek out a few diverse opinions that make you feel a little bit uncomfortable. Learn enough to gain a solid understanding of the ins and outs of the story. Stop there. I promise you there’s very little to be gained from reading 1,000 comments on a purposefully inflammatory Facebook post. And I know that because I’ve obsessively read them all, and the only thing I got in return for my time and sanity was several thousand dollars in therapy bills.


Step 3: Take action.


Ok. You’re armed with knowledge. You’re grounded and ready for action. Those three things you picked? Go do ‘em. Make your calls, spread the word, put together a ridiculously well-worded PR statement for social media. Do what you’ve gotta do! Make that change, baby.  

See how dang simple that is? And it feels good! Soon, you’ll be sharing this system with your friend who reads everything. Hopefully, she’ll still be willing to curate links for you.

Lmk your tips for staying healthfully engaged in today’s news cycle in the comments!


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2 Replies to “How to Engage in the Issues Without Going to the Dark Place (in 3 Easy Steps!)”

  1. absolutely in love with this post an exactly what I needed to hear! Have really turned myself into an all or nothing on these issues and this is such a perfect middle ground – thank you for sharing!!

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