How the News is Affecting Your Mental Health
Are you consuming the news—or is the news consuming you? Bad news is nothing new, but these days we seem to be dealing with more upsetting headlines, information overload, and social media rabbit holes than ever before. Here are some ways to care for your headspace during upsetting times.
Bad News “Doomscrolling” and How to Protect Your Mental Health
We all want to be well informed about what is going on in the world. But there is a certain point where too much information can become bad, even if that information is essential. When scrolling endlessly through article after article of negative news (a practice that has been dubbed “doomscrolling”), too much information is definitely bad.
But just how much can doomscrolling every morning or lunch break actually affect you?
Consuming news in this way can have a dramatic impact on your mental health. In the past, it was much easier to compartmentalize the news. You would likely only read the news once a day and then move on with your regular routine. Today, we cannot escape the news. It is on our phones, social media, the TV in your office building’s breakroom, the radio in the car, and everywhere else.
Consider also that news today is exponentially more visual than it was in the past. Today anyone can see digital images and video of traumatizing events such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and suffering caused by pandemics just by picking up the phone. As a result, the news today generates more fear and anxiety than ever before, and it is no surprise that many of us find it incredibly overwhelming.
Is it even possible to remain positive amongst this onslaught of negativity?
Tips to Prevent Bad News Depression
As upsetting headlines, depressing statistics, and general information overload pile up, it can be hard to remember how the news should work. You should be viewing the news to broaden your knowledge and stay up to date, not allowing the never-ending information to completely occupy your mind and prevent you from enjoying the world around you.
Here are some tips that you can practice to help you preserve your mental health, even in troubling times.
Limit Your News Intake
Limiting your news intake does not only mean limiting when you look at the news. You also want to limit which news outlets you are reading or watching.
Focus on reliable sources and schedule specific times during the day when you will look at the news. Traditional newspapers are an excellent place to start because these journalists have a code of ethics that requires them to tell the truth. Random social media accounts are not bound by this same obligation. Reputable organizations like the CDC or World Health Organization (WHO) are also good choices.
By carefully selecting and limiting news sources, you can focus on only the most important things going on in the world and not overwhelm yourself by falling down a social media rabbit hole.
Get a News Summary
Summaries are a great way to stay up-to-date with what is happening in the world without becoming completely consumed by depressing news. Try to summarize the world’s news with the following tips:
- Subscribe to a few, well-chosen newsletters
- Look only at the “top things you need to know today” types of articles
- Limit yourself to one news piece on any given topic
- Ask a friend to summarize the news for you
The goal is to stick to general summaries rather than consuming every article you see, and this approach can help limit how deeply embroiled you become in daily negativity.
Turn Off Notifications
Getting notifications about events happening throughout the day can be highly distracting and cause you to lose focus on the task at hand. It can also lead to a constant flow of bad news coming in throughout the day. How can you expect to recover and enjoy life when you are constantly being notified about all the terrible things happening to others worldwide?
The same technology that has cursed us with this constant news avalanche can also help create a curated, scheduled news experience. Some examples are switching your phone onto Do Not Disturb mode during the day or turning off notifications for the news application. You can also schedule “summaries” for particular times of the day that gather all of your desired news articles into one location until you want to read them.
Avoid the News Before Bed
Ever been told never to go to bed angry? Well, the saying holds true for when you’re sad or upset, too. When you go to bed with a lot on your mind, it can really impact your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Without restful sleep, you will wake up tired and fatigued the next day, which can result in increased anxiety and depression. This can lead to a vicious cycle that leaves you constantly fatigued, stressed, and upset.
Additionally, your cell phone’s blue light can interfere with your sleep cycle. Try turning off your phone at night or placing it in Do Not Disturb mode while sleeping so that you can rest without distraction.
Look for Good News
A lot of times, we get so caught up in all of the bad news we see about what is going on in the world that we can forget that good things are happening too. While sometimes it can be hard to find these positive news articles — such as heartwarming or inspirational stories — they are out there. It can be beneficial to try to look for some good news each day rather than spending your time scrolling through only the bad.
It may help to follow certain social media or news accounts that focus on providing good news so that you don’t end up scrolling through ten negative articles before you even get to a positive one. Some accounts you might want to follow are Upworthy, the Good News Network, or Some Good News on Twitter.
It can be all too easy to end our day with the news and leave yourself feeling anxious or uncertain about what is going to happen in the future. Unfortunately, this can lead to an unhealthy habit of obsessing over these thoughts, which can really take a toll on your mind and body.
So do something you enjoy after reading the news rather than allowing yourself to stew in negative emotions. Maybe you love some good old weight lifting with loud music playing through your headphones. Perhaps you love curling up on a couch with a cup of your favorite drink and a good book. Maybe you love chatting with a family member or friend over the phone. Whatever it is, try to relax and unwind after reading the news. This can help distract you from the negative swarm of thoughts and keep you grounded in the moment.
The unfortunate truth is that many negative things are going on all the time. And us humans tend to seek out and focus on these negatives. The more negativity we consume, the more we end up feeling worse in our daily lives.
But if we take steps to actively place our mental health as a priority and limit the amount and type of news we consume each day, we can recover. For more tips on breaking bad habits that are affecting your mental health, check out this article.
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If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately, call your doctor, or go to the emergency room/urgent care.