Trigger warning: this article deals with the topic of sexual assault.
The news surrounding the Liberal Party lately, with multiple allegations of sexual assault — both recent and historic — has been overwhelming, to say the least. Triggering, or an absolute garbage dumpster trash fire, also aptly summarises it.
It’s sadly likely, that one of the two million Australian adults who have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15, have found the news — and the unrelenting coverage of it — to be a point of trauma or distress. Additionally, it may trigger anxiety, stress or depression.
We’ve spoken about coping during a triggering news cycle before; and now, with the help of Amber Rules director and founder of Rough Patch, an affordable counselling and mental health care service, the focus will be solely on self-care. Specifically, eights ways to practice self-care during a triggering news cycle.
Trauma is a complex and nuanced experience, according to Rules. “[It’s] experienced differently by everyone,” she explains, so don’t stress yourself out further if you’re not reacting the way you or other people thought you would (or should). “Trauma can cause a litany of responses.”
Some of the ways you might respond? Feelings of anxiety and depression; withdrawal from loved ones and loved activities; having flashbacks and intrusive thoughts; a significant change in appetite; a change in sleeping patterns; mood swings, difficulty regulating emotions, and more.
Here are eight ways you can practice self-care during a triggering news cycle.
Limit media exposure
The news has been especially triggering of late, so try to limit your exposure to it, Rules suggests. This can include changing the TV channel or radio station; turn it off entirely if need be. Disable notifications on your phone, spend less time on social media, and unfollow news pages for a while.
Those sites and pages will be there if, or when, you’re ready.
Talk to a trusted friend
“Do this as often as you need to,” instructs Rules. Remember to ask them if it’s okay to vent, and how often they feel they can support you — they may have their own experiences of sexual assault.
Rules recommends asking “Would it be okay if I talk about how I’m feeling in relation to the news at the moment?” This allows them the opportunity to set limits if they also need to look after themselves.
You can also write how you’re feeling in a journal. If you don’t want to read back what you wrote, you can tear out the pages and throw them out, shred them or burn them — a cathartic move in itself.
Settle and self-soothe
“Whether you realise it or not, when you’re overwhelmed or triggered, you’re also having a biological response,” explains Rules. When your nervous system is being overloaded like this, you can help your mind settle by supporting your body.
“Doing simple things like vigorously shaking or wiggling, making loud noises, making big movements with your body, stretching, faking a yawn can support your body’s natural regulating processes.”
She adds that you can also do things like light exercise, or other movements.
Get back to basics
Take it easy
A suggestion from Rules is to “spent lots of time relaxing or vegging out” — she says it’s “absolutely fine” to watch TV, eat comfort foods (like chocolate), and zone right out.
Don’t feel guilty about doing so, as “our body does these things when we’re overwhelmed to help us cope”. Embrace taking it easy.
Let colleagues know
But only if you feel safe and comfortable to do so. You don’t have to go into detail at all; Rules recommends saying something like “Hey, I’m having a hard time with everything happening in the news at the moment. Just letting you know that I’m prioritising self-care [because of this].”
If you feel it’s necessary to take sick or holiday leave, use these days.
Therapy is for everyone, anytime
Rules says to remember that “Therapy is for everyone.” Not only can talking to a therapist help, but it also acts as good preventative care.
“You don’t need to be in a crisis before getting support,” Rules tells us. “In fact, it’s better to see a therapist before it gets overwhelming.”
There’s no wrong or right way
As Rules said before, trauma is complex. More than this, “There’s no right or wrong way to experience it.”
“You aren’t ‘too sensitive’ or ‘making it up’,” says Rules. “You’re having a normal response to an abnormal situation, and you’re doing your best.”
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual assault, please contact the Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence National Help Line on 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) or head to The Australian Human Rights Commission for a list of state by state resources.