As seen in USA Today:
My smartphone’s been working overtime these past few weeks to deliver a spate of emergency notifications straight to the palm of my hand. And I’m totally exhausted by it.
Between all the breaking news alerts, heartbreaking Facebook feeds, and a seemingly endless flood of negative Twitter tirades, I’ve feel like I’ve consumed enough bad news to last a lifetime. Of course I’m doing everything I can to help anyone and everyone who needs it, but it’s overwhelming, to say the least.
“There’s actually a term for how you and so many other people are feeling right now,” says Dr. Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and expert on the connection between media consumption and stress. “It’s called compassion fatigue. No one can absorb the horrible things happening in this world 24 hours a day. You have to find a way to step back.”
Unplugging is easier said than done:
While it’s great to be connected and informed, there’s no doubt there comes a time to throw in the towel — and simply unplug. “It’s the repeated exposure that is the problem,” Dr. Christina Mangurian, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco explained.
But going without your smartphone or daily digital check-ins can make you feel bad too. Trying the cold-turkey approach with your tech can produce a burst of the hormone cortisol and trigger a fight-or-flight response that only settles down when you log-in again. Still, you have to start somewhere. “I suggest limiting the alerts and turning off phones a couple of hours before bed,” Dr. Mangurian adds.
In addition to the message to unplug more often, and do all the normal stuff to take better care of yourself like eat right, exercise, sleep well, and spend time with your loved ones, Dr. McNaughton-Cassill also recommends turning off news alerts, and seeking out apps, sites and tech tools with a more positive and uplifting message.
I went on a mission to find as many of these as I could over the past two weeks and have a list of 10 here that I’ve been using to help restore my faith in humanity — or at least a good laugh or two. Enjoy.
Bookmark These Super Sites
Within Ted Talks own website, this curated playlist of a dozen talks to “restore your faith in humanity,” are a perfect place to start. They include speeches on resilience, the human spirit, and finding hope in the midst of adversity. Warning: you might need an entire box of tissues to make it through most of these — but in a good way. As a bonus, this page also leads you to several other playlists with titles like, “Talks that’ll give you a warm, fuzzy feeling.”
I’m a big fan of Upworthy stories and videos that I mainly come across in my Facebook feed, but the site is a pretty great place to spend some time as well for more light-hearted “good news” and “awe,” inspiring feel-good videos. Whether highlighting ways people can help each other during disasters, sharing the latest super cute animal shenanigans, or clips of our favorite celebrities doing completely cracking up, there’s a little something here for everyone.
Believe it or not, there’s an entire media-training entity devoted to not just reporting the news, but providing solution-based stories as well. This is primarily a site for a journalists and students, but there’s a daily feed of stories that provide a bit of a different take from many modern headlines. According to the site, “even hard-nosed investigative reporters agree that the news provides an excessively dismal view of the world. Audiences regularly come away from the news — even high quality news — feeling powerless, anxious, and resentful.” As a result, the stories you find in the tracker focus on empowerment and change.
C’Mon Get (App) Happy
One of my newest feel-good go-to’s is this goofy app that’s been trending at the top of the App and Play stores in recent weeks. What does it do? Makes it look like your pet is talking to you. Yep, that’s it, and I think it’s hilarious.
You choose a photo of your pet, line up the screen, then record a message. Your pet blinks, moves, and “talks” via animation, and the result is pretty great.
You can share the clip as a video on Facebook or email it as a special greeting to your friends and family. You can even turn your real-life pet into a digital personal assistant and have them tell you the weather forecast, sports scores, or even get them to remind you of your appointments. It pretty tough to be a Debbie Downer when your pooch is “reading” your emails in a hilarious voice.
Another free app called Uplifter keeps reminding me to be on the lookout for the good things happening in my life. It’s basically a mobile journal with daily prompts such as, “what three good things have happened recently,” or “what three things are you grateful for?” A description on Uplifter’s website explains that these positive psychology exercises, drawn from leading neuroscience research, lead to “greater resilience and happier feelings.” It really does seem to do just that.
Headspace is a meditation app that everyone’s talking about. (Seriously, it came up in three different conversations today, in the grocery store, doctor’s office, and at my daughter’s school.) It gives you guided meditations in time frames as short as two minutes and as long as an hour.
There are meditations for specific topics, such as stress, sleep, anxiety, performance, and relationships. You can try it for free for 10-days, or can subscribe to the app for $7.99 per month.
The free app 7Cups offers 24/7 advice and support for all kinds of everyday emotional concerns such as stress, anxiety, and sadness. Download the app, sign-up, answer a few questions, and you can talk anonymously to people who volunteer to provide an empathetic cyber-ear. They’re not mental health professionals — there are other apps for that wuch as Doctors on Demand and Talkspace. Rather, 7Cups is more of a well-being service with self-help guides, self-care ideas, and one-on-one online chatting with another person.
For an inspiring, uplifting, “Aha” kind of break in your day, who better to turn to than Oprah Winfrey? Her podcast series features 25-35 minute recordings of Oprah talking with an eclectic group of people described as “the world’s top thinkers, teachers and luminaries.” Past segments include Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, and former President Jimmy Carter.
Little Ray of (Social Media) Sunshine
I cannot tell you how many times following the Cute Emergency Twitter account has saved my life. It’s a 24/7 stream of adorable animal photos, memes, videos, and a quote or two — delivering all the furry, feathery, and just plain paw-some moments to fill your heart and ease your mind. Sister sites accounts include, Oh My Corgi!, Emergency Kittens, Husky Heaven, Gorgeous Goldens, and EmotiPugs too. And really, can any of us ever get too many hedgehogs in hats?
I loooooove a good quote, and so does Kelli Pease, the woman behind one of my favorite Instagram accounts. And with nearly 100K followers, we’re obviously not the only ones. From inspirational quotes to more cute puppies, Happsters offers up a perfect dose of positive eye-candy to spread more of the good feels throughout your day. As Pease writes on her blog, “the world would be a much better place if we put happiness at the forefront of our lives and went out of our way to spread happiness to other people who needed a boost.”
I completely agree. What type of tech do you use to help in times like this? Be sure to let us know via social media!