If you are living in the United States right now, you’re likely aware of the ongoing debates at the state and national level around women’s health and healthcare; even more so for those living with a uterus. You may also be feeling the low hum of ambient stress—or it may even be acute stress—that comes from having your bodily autonomy on the chopping block.
Whether you’re directly affected by the laws and court cases on the docket today or not, it’s still possible that the current news cycle might be getting you down and distracting you from your everyday life. But it doesn’t have to be so hard—here are a few simple ways to lessen the burden.
Check-in with Your Coping Mechanisms
One common symptom of panic and stress is avoidant tendencies. These differ for everyone, but basically, encompass any action a person may take to escape difficult thoughts or feelings. It’s easy to slip into these patterns when the news cycle is overwhelming, and the things that are causing you stress or feel totally out of your control. Watch for things like turning to alcohol or overdoing it on exercising as forms of escapism.
Not that you’re not allowed a glass of wine or half an hour on the treadmill—exercise, especially, can be a good way of coping with stress—but staying within boundaries that feel reasonable is important. The CDC has guidelines for moderate alcohol consumption, as well as guidelines for physical exercise if you need a framework to start with or check yourself against.
Set Time Limits on Your Social Media Usage
Ever heard of “doomscrolling?” If you haven’t, it’s basically exactly what it sounds like—endlessly scrolling social media feeds until you feel a sense of doom. While virtually no one can experience the luxury of totally logging off, you can set limits for yourself.
Built-in tools on most phones can set limits on certain apps, like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Otherwise, you can set these boundaries for yourself: Maybe your limit looks something like social media only during work hours, leaving your evenings and weekends to decompress. Whatever it is, your limits should be something you can actually stick to, so be sure to make them realistic.
Don’t Be Afraid to Set Boundaries With Loved Ones
One especially difficult component of the ongoing debates around women’s health and healthcare is disagreements among close friends and family. Remember, it’s not your sole responsibility to change every mind. Just like you might set boundaries with your social media usage, you can also set boundaries with your differently-minded uncle who’s constantly in your Facebook comments, or your book club friend who won’t stop forwarding you graphics you disagree with via Instagram DM.
You can simply ignore this stuff if that’s possible for you, or you might try following these tips from NPR’s Life Kit. Just keep in mind that, before you cut anyone off, the first thing to do is a check-in with yourself, and define what it is you need. Having clear intentions in mind will help any necessary conversations go more smoothly, and help you negotiate what you need. And remember, boundaries should feel good for you, without being too confrontational. You’re trying to diminish stress, not add to it.
Keep the News Out of Your Bedroom or Private Spaces
Sometimes physical boundary setting is important, too. Just like you probably wouldn’t take a work call in the shower (at least not before the pandemic), you might stop reading the news before going to sleep every night.
Try putting an imaginary “No News” barrier around your bedroom, for example. That way, at least one room in your house can feel like a safe, stress-free space, at least in this one meaningful way.
Find Ways to Support Causes You Believe in
There’s something to be said for getting involved—it just feels good. Look for local or national organizations that are doing work that you believe in, and check on ways you can support them. Helping out may be as simple as a monetary donation, or perhaps an organization may be looking for remote or local volunteers.
Or, if you’re looking to make a more direct impact on the lawmakers who are in charge of all this, you can always call their offices or write them letters, letting them know how you really feel. This does double duty of getting involved, and catharsis.
When Stress Peaks, Try a Quick, Temporary Fix
It may sound glib, but taking 10 minutes to go for a walk, stretch, or turn away from all your screens and meditate can make a big difference in a small amount of time. All that stuff people say about “fresh air” holds up, especially if it means getting you out of your hunched-over-the-desk position, and gets you out into the world for a moment.
For further inspiration, this list from Healthline contains a plethora of quick fixes for stress.
Keep a Private Journal, or Find an Online Community
If you feel you have no one to talk to in your personal life, it may feel powerful and effective to write down your real thoughts somewhere private. You can say anything in a journal!
Or, if venting is more your style, try seeking a like-minded community online. Think about it like a support group, but for the current news cycle. The ongoing debate around women’s health and healthcare may be difficult, but there’s no reason you have to shoulder it on your own.