The most useful mental health trick is learning to disengage – here’s how to master it

Posted: 19th June 2024

Source: The most useful mental health trick is learning to disengage – here’s how to master it (

When you wake up in the morning and decide to look at the news headlines, you may well feel like you wish you hadn’t. The world is facing many large and complex issues. Perhaps it always has, but it does feel like everything is extremely uncertain during this particular period of time.

We all have a responsibility to try to improve the world around us and to make positive and effective change, but with all of these complex, ongoing and frankly overwhelming problems we do all need to work out how best to use our energy if we are to sustain it.

Just like running a long-distance race, we need to learn not to employ the techniques we use in a sprint, but rather conserve our energy, know when to speed up and know when to slow down.

Before the internet and 24-hour news we had probably fewer decisions to make about what we would like to change and what we could change, because we didn’t know as much and weren’t exposed to global issues as much. It is important to know what is happening in the world to help us feel part of something and to support others.

But to make effective change and to maintain this ability long term we need to protect our mental and emotional energy and health. We need to know our limits and know the boundaries, otherwise we will be of no use to anyone, including ourselves.

We need to learn when to engage with the world, when to disengage and when not to do either. Just like in our own personal lives, when we have a problem at work or in our relationships we need to learn when to try to find a solution, when we need a break and when we need to actively move away from exposure to a situation or person.

Engaging with the world might mean reading or watching the news, going on social media, turning on the radio or meeting up with people who can be challenging in what they talk about or what their focus is on. Understanding when you are in a place to engage or not can be a useful life skill.

When to engage

It takes a moment of reflection and a conscious effort. You have to ask yourself questions every day in each moment: “How am I feeling? What are my mental and emotional reserve levels like?”

If you are feeling good and full of energy it is time to engage with what the external world is presenting you with. Are your boundaries firm and resolute about what you are prepared to engage in? Are you clear about why you are engaging? Are you passionate about changing something and does that issue resonate with you?

These types of engagements often end up giving us more energy than before. You can only engage in effective change if both parties are willing to listen and communicate. Choose your battles and discussions wisely. Choose the platforms you engage on to suit how you are feeling and engage in small bursts, so you can have breaks to help you check in on yourself.

When to disengage

Are you feeling emotionally vulnerable or raw? Are you feeling overwhelmed by your own problems or exhausted? Engaging with all the outside world’s noise when you are in this emotional state will only lead you to feel worse. Instead, work out what you need and seek it out.

That might be peace and quiet, it might be to remind yourself of all the nice things in the world by doing something lovely or it might be to be around animals or children to remember the simple and the joyful. You may need to feel some stability and build routine into your daily life.

Do these things rather than automatically turning on the TV or radio or going on social media. This does not mean you don’t care about all the problems in the world, rather it means you are actively choosing to engage only with them when you have to energy, skills and ability to make a difference to them in a positive way.

Likewise, when the noise is perhaps irrelevant, toxic or negative, it may be appropriate for your mental health to actively disengage. Sometimes silence and disengagement can allow the space for others to notice and question why, and also sometimes time away can allow space for solutions to be found.

Categories: News