Amid the sharp increase in antisemitism globally during the war in Israel, you probably are feeling increased stress. The hundreds of news articles and social media posts may be making it difficult to think positively, or even be able to think about anything else.
Now more than ever before, it’s important to take time for yourself and disengage with the heavy flow of media to preserve your mental health. Undoubtedly, this is a hard time to be a member of the Jewish community, but there are also tangible steps you can take to reduce the impact on your mental health.
Here are 16 tried and tested ways to destress and reduce media-related anxiety.
Turn off social media
This might seem a bit daunting since F.O.M.O. is real, but deleting social media apps from your phone can be one of the simplest ways to destress. You are not missing out on anything by not seeing the infographic your friend posted on their Instagram story.
Social media posts often are repetitive of the precise images, videos and sentiments that are causing you stress and anxiety. A way to feel less suffocated by what is going on on social media is to not engage with it.
Taking even 24 hours away from social media can help, but avoiding it for longer periods of time could make you much happier.
Delete news apps or disable notifications
We are so inundated with the news of the past month that it often is difficult to not know everything right when it happens. Psychologists have identified “headline stress disorder” meaning that people can become addicted to knowing what is happening in real time, which can increase stress, anxiety and depression.
However, the overwhelming amount of bad news is demoralizing and detrimental to many people’s mental health.
For many, the best option is simply to turn off breaking news notifications. By deleting news apps or at least disabling the constant alerts, you can give yourself longer periods of calm and focus on your needs.
If something important happens, you’ll find out when you check the news again. In your time without notifications or news apps, you’ll be able to stay more present with your activities and whatever you are doing.
Make a playlist
While it might sound trivial at first, creating a mental health playlist can be therapeutic both in the curation process and while listening. According to psychologists, listening to music is associated with better self-esteem, emotional regulation, and reduced anxiety and depression.
Select a mood that you want to achieve and choose songs you love that reflect good vibes or the emotions you feel. You might need distinct playlists: one for calming anxieties and another for boosting your spirits when you feel low.
Creating a playlist is also a good way to take your mind off the news as you transition your headspace.
Read a novel
Fiction is a great tool to transport yourself into someone else’s shoes and temporarily escape the real world. Wrap yourself in a comfy blanket and make yourself your favorite hot drink and you’re ready to delve into a book.
Reading allows your brain to be active and explore new worlds and relationships without having to leave the couch.
For some lighter Jewish reads, check out Unpacked’s recommendations for new romance novels with Jewish protagonists.
Listen to green noise
Green noise, focusing on mid-range sounds that remind people of nature, is an excellent alternative to white noise.
Since it excludes all harsh sounds, green noise — like the steady rustling of leaves in a forest or the consistent hum of a gentle breeze — is perfect for clearing your mind and relaxing.
Touted for its ability to help people sleep, green noise can remove distractions and intrusive thoughts, helping listeners to become more grounded in intentional thoughts.
If you’re struggling with restlessness and want to refocus yourself on positive thinking, put on some of the dozens of green noise playlists on YouTube like this one of 12 consecutive no-ad hours of green noise and this green noise video specifically focused on helping you fall asleep.
Take a walk outside
Sometimes the most beneficial action you can take is to leave your home and take a quick walk. If you have the option to walk in a park or amongst trees, take it because seeing greenery can boost happiness and alertness.
Mental health experts say that walking outside for at least 10 minutes is associated with increased energy, positivity and reduced stress.
You can use your dedicated playlists on your walk to help clear your mind. However, not listening to anything on your walk and being more conscious of your surroundings can be equally as therapeutic.
Practice the 5-senses technique
Many mental health professionals recommend this five-senses technique (also known as the 5-4-3-2-1 method) to ground oneself in space and time and help treat anxiety. Here’s how to practice it:
- Tell yourself five things you see in your space.
- Acknowledge four things that you can touch and then touch those items.
- Recognize three things you hear.
- Think about two things you can smell.
- Acknowledge one thing you can taste.
Through this technique, you will become more aware of your surroundings and focus on things outside of your anxious thoughts.
Set boundaries with loved ones on topics they can discuss with you
While it may feel a bit awkward at first, it’s perfectly acceptable to say that you’re not interested in discussing certain topics you’re trying to avoid in the media.
It’s normal to feel like conversations can be just as draining as doom-scrolling online if they’re about similar topics. Your loved ones will understand that you are not in the place to discuss, and you both will be thankful you didn’t have that discussion and instead could focus on other parts of life.
Find joy in having other conversations with your friends and other loved ones or perhaps doing an activity together.
Did you know that petting a dog or cat (as long as you’re not allergic) has measurable mental health benefits? When you pet animals, your stress-inducing chemicals decrease and the feel-good hormone oxytocin increases in the process.
Enjoying time with your pet, or asking friends or even strangers if you could pet their dog will allow you to focus on something else while making you feel better in the process.
Plus, you’ll make a furry friend’s day, so it’s a win-win situation.
During this time, you might be feeling powerless and as though you can’t help those in Israel. However, many organizations are seeking donations of money and supplies to help civilians, soldiers and medical professionals during this time.
If you’re looking to donate, check out Unpacked’s list of ways to support Israelis right now. The organizations listed vary in what they are funding, so you can donate to a cause or group you are passionate about.
Another way to donate is to attend fundraisers or charity dinners in your area. If you can’t find one locally, or if there’s a different organization you want to support, reach out to the charity and find out ways to plan your own event for those in your community.
Not only is this a great way to raise money for a good cause, but you may also find camaraderie in those who come to the event.
Find joy in Jewish cooking
Whether you are active in your Jewish community or not, engaging in Jewish activities like cooking can help you feel closer to your community while not having to read or see content that will upset you.
Baking challah, raising money for tzedakah, or enjoying the pleasures of matzah ball soup will allow you to feel Jewish joy. For traditional (and non-traditional) Jewish food, check out Unpacked’s recipe section.
Embrace Jewish rituals, friends and community
Perhaps the most beautiful part of being Jewish is the greater Jewish community. Reach out to your loved ones for support. Even if you have one Jewish friend in your life, leaning on them and recognizing that you are not alone can be crucial to preserving your mental health.
Hosting or attending Shabbat dinners can be a great way to continue feeling connected to the Jewish community while getting together with friends.
For many, education is a way to destress. Instead of scrolling through social media or the news, choosing specific topics to learn more about can be therapeutic.
Check out Unpacked’s resources on the war, which are made up of articles, videos and podcasts to better educate yourself on current events. This will help you better understand the history and context of the conversations going on around you.
If you feel like this will not hurt your mental health, share what you’ve learned with those you know. It can be cathartic to teach others about topics you are passionate about. If you feel that it’s safe to do so, speak out against antisemitism when you see it on social media. Taking action is a powerful form of self-care.
Meditation and deep breathing are crucial to feeling grounded and less anxious. While the benefits of meditation accumulate over time, practicing meditation and mindful breathing can offer instant stress relief.
If you have never meditated before, or if you want a refresher, check out some of the many great guided meditation sessions on YouTube (our recommendations are Unpacked’s “Soulful Jewish Living Podcast” and Yael Shy). Find a meditation teacher or guide who resonates with you.
“Soulful Jewish Living” is a great way to begin meditation and begin incorporating spirituality into your everyday life. Host Rabbi Josh Feigelson recently shared ways to deal with feelings of powerlessness about what is going on in the Middle East and reduce overwhelm.
Another recent episode guides listeners through their emotions about the war and is a perfect starting point for those who don’t know where to start with meditation.
Even if you do not consider yourself to be religious, prayer can be crucial to preserving your mental health since you can choose the messages and sentiments you are putting out into the universe.
For many, prayer offers a sense of agency and humility in turbulent times and can foster periods of deep introspection and mindfulness.
Figure out how you like to pray, whether that’s at synagogue, on your own or with a small minyan of friends. Prayer can have mental health benefits regardless of the setting, so find what makes you feel the most comfortable.
If you’re looking for specific prayers during this time, check out Unpacked’s list of prayers for Israel in both Hebrew and English.
Allow yourself to express grief
Sometimes you might just need to cry or scream. For many people, the best way to de-stress and practice self-care is to acknowledge that you’re not doing alright and let yourself feel and express difficult feelings.
Once you have expressed some of the emotions you feel, you can begin the process of trying the other techniques on this list.
Originally Published Nov 6, 2023 02:41PM EST