Now that the state elections are over, we can all breathe. Yes, news anxiety is real. In fact, therapist Dr. Steven Stosny even coined a term for it: headline stress disorder. With multiple crises affecting people at home and overseas, it’s safe to say we’re living through stressful times. Staying on top of the news can feel consuming of your time and self since social media and 24-hour cable news is quite literally everywhere. It’s good to remember that the “news” is a business, and some media outlets thrive on playing up disaster and scandal as sensationalism and sex sells.
Seeking to stay on top of current events may help some people feel involved, but the secret to still feeling involved without sparing your inner peace is becoming more mindful and strategic about how we’re consuming news, giving ourselves space to react to it, and honoring the emotions that may happen as a result. VALLEY has compiled some tips for those of us who want to be a voice in the conversations taking place around the world but may have the tendency to take external stressors on as our own.
1. Change the way you’re consuming media.
Sometimes it’s not just the actual news that’s upsetting us, it’s the way it’s delivered too. Intense visuals can be triggering. Watching the news on TV and reading online articles both usually have some sort of visual component that often aims to demonstrate the gravity of the subject matter. This can look like destruction, death or grief.
Many mainstream media outlets have expanded to podcasts as well. Much like the radio, it’s much more accessible to the listener as they play a more passive role as the consumer. This type of medium allows you to get the same news without any disturbing visuals or urgent vocal inflections the way we may hear on TV.
2. Switch up your sources.
In general, it’s good to make sure that you’re consuming news from a reputable source. According to Pew Research Center, 48% of American adults get their news from social media “often” or “sometimes” in a survey conducted in 2021.
A lot of consumers don’t realize that the algorithms of their favorite social media are designed to keep them on the app for as long as possible by exposing them to content they’ve shown interest in before. This can lead to a sort of echo chamber effect that can turn very biased very fast. Unbiased news outlets have a calmer and impartial way of delivering the news. Some unbiased reputable news sources include The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, BBC, The Economist, Wire Services like the Associated Press, etc.
3. Focus on the good.
Bad news makes headlines more often than good news does. Media outlets profit from publishing stories that are shocking because consumers click on them more. Even though that may be the case, it’s important to make sure that you’re consuming positive stories and information on a regular basis as well.
With all of the scary things that have happened in the world just these past few years, let’s not forget that great strides are being made every day too. If you consume most of your news through social media, the user normally has some degree of control over the curation of their feed. It could be useful to familiarize yourself with the algorithms you are working with so that good news finds you just as much if not more than bad news does. Some media outlets that have sections designated for good news include but are not limited to the Good News Network and The Optimist Daily.
4. Limit your screen time.
Another good way to stay in control of your emotions when staying up to date on current events is to set screen limits for yourself, especially if you primarily consume the news through your mobile device. Hundreds of thousands of news stories get pumped out every day, so it can feel like you’re out of the loop on the days that you may not have had a moment to read the papers with your morning coffee. If you’re the type of person that may struggle with knowing when to put the phone down when you see compelling article after compelling article, limiting your screen time on those apps may be the simplest way to give yourself enough space to also process the emotions that may have come up as a result of consuming the news.
Another angle that you can add to this is designating certain times of the day for the news. Maybe reading the news in the morning works best for you because it gives you the entire day to debrief. Maybe dinner time is when you want to have a passionate conversation with your loved ones around the table. If hard time limits aren’t for you, designating times of the day may be a good alternative to limiting your screen time.
5. Practice self care.
Taking steps to care for your body, like making sure you’re eating regular meals, getting the recommended amount of sleep each night and staying active will have a positive impact on your overall well-being. Remember what we said earlier? Headline stress disorder is real! Acknowledging that it’s normal to experience the emotions that may come up when reading about tragedies close to home or overseas, coming of age stories, or even the turbulent ups and downs of the economy is a necessary to moving past the stress it may generate.
Remember, we all just lived through history textbook content. Hindsight is always 20/20, and we can’t control the uncertainty that we live in. All we can do is control how we respond to it.
How do you manage stress? Tweet us @VALLEYmag!