How to Decompress When Being Triggered By the News Cycle

  Published on January 26, 2021 by NYCAASA Admin

Over the last four years, the news cycle has become something nearly impossible to turn away from, and yet, impossible at times to keep watching. We’re all more plugged in than ever. As viewers, we are constantly tuning in to learn more about the latest natural disaster, pandemic update, political abuse, or act of racial violence because it affects all of us — and sometimes, the anxiety of not being informed can feel even more intense. But for many of us, staying up to date comes at a price and can physically, emotionally, or mentally trigger memories of our own traumas while watching the news unfold.


In 2020, the American Psychological Association wrote about the United States being in the midst of a mental health crisis. In their studies they discovered that 2 in 3 adults shared that they had experienced a significant increase in stress over the past year and it had begun to take a negative physical and emotional toll. This toll has manifested in many ways across the United States including increased rates of depression and anxiety, substance abuse, and for trauma survivors, the reemergence of PTSD symptoms.


Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by a traumatic event — either witnessed or personally experienced. This condition is common amongst survivors of sexual violence, and while symptoms can lessen over time with the help of therapy and other healing resources, a survivor may still be triggered by things such as:


  • Uncomfortable topics
  • Unwanted memories
  • Events or holidays
  • Another person’s words or actions
  • Spaces or environments
  • One’s own actions
  • The news and media


While it is important to stay informed, it’s more important to do so in a way that serves your own healing and to recognize when too much news consumption, or even a single news story, can feel triggering of past traumatic experiences. While being triggered will feel different for everyone, common symptoms include:

  • Pounding heart
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A feeling of panic or doom
  • Tight chest
  • Upset stomach
  • Anger or frustration flares
  • Shakiness or dizziness
  • Crying
  • Sweating
  • Claustrophobic or overheated feeling
  • Clenched jaw
  • Feeling of being out of control

While symptoms may look different from person to person (and sometimes episode to episode), the more information we are able to collect about what triggers us, the more accurately we can begin building a self-care plan that works best for us. This self-care plan should include coping mechanisms for immediate relief when being triggered, and self-care habits we can implement in our day to day life. While this plan is something we can craft on our own, please consider also reaching out to a mental health professional, like an Alliance Sexual Violence Counselor, should your symptoms or frequency of triggered episodes increase. Their advice can provide you with coping skills tailored specifically to your needs, experiences, and the resources at your disposal.


It’s important to note that every self-care plan will look different from person to person, but the universal and most important thing for everyone is a safe environment. If you are being triggered, take yourself into a safe space. If this isn’t possible, it’s important to call for help or to remove yourself from the situation. Visit our Survivor Resources page for hotlines and access to our chat feature. Once you’ve found your feeling of safety, there are a plethora of immediate actions you can take to grant yourself back a feeling of control including:

  • Taking a deep breath in, and exhaling that breath out. Repeat as needed.
  • Meditating or doing a guided meditation
  • Drinking a glass of water
  • Taking a shower
  • Washing your face
  • Unplugging from the news and social media
  • Clearing one’s calendar for the day to provide yourself time to rest and decompress
  • Going on a walk or spending time outside
  • Moving your body in a way that brings you peace (e.g. stretching, yoga)
  • Turning on a special playlist
  • Reaching out and talking to a loved one
  • Journaling
  • Reciting a mantra. For example: “I am safe. I am loved. I am enough.”
  • Cuddling a pet or a loved one
  • Putting on comfortable clothing
  • Decluttering or tidying a space
  • Watering your plants
  • Doing an activity with your hands (e.g. crafting, baking, planting)
  • Giving yourself permission to take the space and do the things your body needs

Like a wave, this episode of being triggered will pass. Take care of yourself, and if it’s helpful, share the boundaries you’re setting up around your triggers with loved ones as well. You never have to explain or apologize for needing to leave a situation or set a boundary because you’re being triggered; your priority is taking care of yourself. So continue seeking out the people, places, and routines that make you feel safe, and whenever you need, don’t hesitate to push the big red off button on the news cycle.


*Written and contributed by Alliance Volunteer Journalist, Carly Lanning.*