Overhead photo of a person scrolling through news articles on their phone.

Social media can be a great tool for connecting with friends, extended family members and organized groups. However, it can also be hard to disconnect from things we may rather not see, like traumatic events, natural disasters, political feuds and more. While it’s convenient to check every notification and read every headline at our fingertips, this isn’t always the best strategy to care for our mental health. 

Here are four things you can do if you’re feeling overwhelmed by current events or the state of the world.

1. Set a time limit

Allow yourself to take a break from social media and the news. Limiting how much time you spend on social platforms and news sites can help you manage feelings of stress and anxiety. It can also help free up some of your time, so you can focus more of your energy on activities and hobbies that help you feel actively engaged (rather than something that is more passive, like social media).

One way to decrease your time on social media is to designate phone-free spaces. For instance, you may decide that areas designated for working are phone-free zones. This could include your dining table, office, desk or other study and workspaces. By keeping your phone out of reach, you may find that you’re able to focus more on class or work tasks more easily. 

Connecting with friends is another great way to take a break from online updates by focusing on the people you’re with. Spending meaningful time offline can help you disconnect from your feeds and reconnect with loved ones in your life. Try to keep in mind how you use your phone when spending time with others. For instance, you may want to silence your phone or put it in your bag if you’re meeting a friend for coffee, so you can avoid getting distracted. 

2. Create boundaries

We all have different expectations for how we interact with people and how we want them to interact with us. Boundaries are a helpful tool to give us agency over our physical safety, communication, emotions, energy and time. They can also help us live by our values and determine what is and isn’t okay.

Setting boundaries online may look different for everyone. Choose boundaries that reflect your values and protect your well-being. Here are a few examples of boundaries you can set for yourself and others on social:

  • Give yourself permission to not read the news.
    Remember that emails, news and updates will still be there tomorrow, so you won’t miss out on anything by skipping the news cycle for a day or two. You can always go back to read it if it was something really important or that you need to see. It may also be helpful to seek out short-form news outlets from credible sources, such as 15- or 30-minute podcasts or daily written summaries, to set natural limits on news consumption.
  • Choose how you engage online.
    Arguments made through comments or messages online are unlikely to change anyone’s opinion, especially if the other person is committed to engaging with people in a rude, disrespectful or hostile way. Sometimes it’s best to not engage, and it’s okay to let someone have the last word to spare your mental energy.
  • Practice enforcing limits.
    When traumatic events happen, it’s common for people to ask questions or request updates that may feel invasive or triggering. If this happens to you, give yourself permission to say no or walk away from situations that make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. You can also ask to change the topic of conversation away from current events or other topics that negatively impact your emotional health. 

Remember that we can’t control what other people do, but we can control how we respond to it. Boundaries are just one of the many ways to do this.

3. Focus on things within your control

Just like we can’t control what other people say or do online, we can’t control what the news chooses to report on. If we get absorbed in the news, we may start to feel overwhelmed. When we engage with news in this way, we may lose our sense of control.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by news stories, updates, details or outcomes, it may be time to take a step back and refocus your attention to things that are within your control. Sometimes it can be helpful to create a list. Here are a few examples of things that you can directly control:

  • What time you go to bed and wake up
  • How you spend your free time (hobbies, interests, etc.)
  • Daily activities like spending time outside, eating regularly, staying active, etc.
  • What you choose to read or post about
  • How much time you spend on social platforms
  • Notification and privacy settings

Instead of focusing on what is outside of your control, focus more of your time and energy on the things in your life that you have a say in.

4. Mute or unfollow

It’s important to remember that we have the power to control what appears on our feeds. If your social platforms feel hostile, overwhelming or are negatively impacting your mental health, it may be time to turn off notifications, mute or unfollow. 

Muting can be a great tool to hide disturbing posts or rescue yourself from heated debates and discussions. If you don’t have a close relationship with someone, unfriending or blocking them can also be good options. This will remove them from your view entirely and stop any notifications about their posts, comments and messages. Remember that muting and unfollowing don’t have to be permanent. You can always refollow or unmute people in the future as things change.

Campus resources

If you or someone you know needs mental health support, there are resources on campus that can help. 

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS)

For students

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) provides mental health support for all CU Boulder students, including mental health screenings, brief individual therapy, group therapy, workshops, crisis support and more.

Mental health workshops

For students

Join CAPS for free weekly workshops to develop coping skills that can help you manage stress, anxiety and distressing emotions. These virtual workshops allow you to work through modules and interact with a CAPS counselor directly to ask questions or get more information. Workshops are open to all students.

Let’s Talk

For students

Let’s Talk CAPS counselors are here to help students navigate specific issues and connect with services and resources on campus. Let’s Talk is a great way to explore issues related to anxiety, depression, relationships, academics, finances and more. Sessions are available in person and virtually through telehealth.

Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP)

For staff and faculty

The Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) provides free mental health services for all CU Boulder staff and faculty, including brief counseling, community referrals, workshops and support groups. Virtual and in-person drop-in hours are available.

Office of Victim Assistance (OVA)

For students, staff and faculty

The Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short-term, trauma-focused counseling services for students, grad students, faculty and staff who have experienced and/or witnessed a traumatic, disturbing or life-disruptive event. They are familiar with a wide range of topics, including sexual assault and harassment, discrimination, microaggressions, identity-based trauma, abuse, intimate partner abuse, stalking, crime, grief and more. 

The Real Help Hotline

For staff and faculty

The Real Help Hotline provides access to professional counselors who can offer assistance finding local resources as well as immediate crisis counseling. This program is free, confidential and available to all employees 24/7 at 833-533-2428.


For students, staff and faculty

Health and Wellness Services has launched a new mental health app for students, staff and faculty! Download WellTrack to track your mood, practice skills and complete modules.

WellTrack is available on the App Store and Google Play. Sign in with your IdentiKey for free access.

AcademicLiveCare (ALC)

For students, staff and faculty

AcademicLiveCare is a telehealth platform that allows students to schedule and attend mental health appointments from a smartphone, computer or other mobile device for free. Easily schedule virtual visits with licensed psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists, or other providers. Please note: AcademicLiveCare does not provide crisis or emergency care.