The news these days seems to be making many people either depressed or outraged and ultimately defeated. How can you channel those feelings into something positive?
Many of my patients grapple with this issue. They want to stay informed but the constant drip of negative news is stressing them out. There is increasing evidence that the nonstop barrage of disturbing and infuriating stories impacts psychological health. Studies show it can worsen feelings of anxiety, lead to sadness, and flip you into a bad mood. Negative news stories have also been shown to exacerbate personal worries that are unrelated to the content of the story itself. In other words, a story about a disheartening political situation can amplify concerns about your relationship.
The 24/7 news cycle is emotionally draining. I know that a notification on my device about a natural disaster or corrupt politician can instantly affect my mood and make it hard to concentrate on anything else. It’s so easy to tumble down the rabbit hole of live updates as an event unfolds. The irony is that following a breaking event may make us feel more involved but does not necessarily make us more informed. Most of the time, it’s noise, not news.
So how do we stay on top of the issues without feeling overloaded? You don’t have to bury your head in the sand like an ostrich. The key is to optimize how, when, and from where you get your news. Here are a few tips that have helped me and my patients stay sane and avoid news-induced negativity.
1. Turn off notifications and digital alerts from news sources on all your devices.
2. Designate a time—either once or twice a day—to get your news fix from an established source, not social media.
3. Read or watch stories that intelligently present digested and reliable information about what has happened.
4. Skip commentary and media that predict what might happen. Listening to pundits and so-called experts weigh in on the future is basically glorified gossip and of little value. Learn the facts, don’t follow opinions.
5. Avoid checking news first thing in the morning and before bed. It might hijack your day or interfere with your sleep.
Once you gain control over how you get your news and where you get it from, not only will you be calmer and more productive, you will be better informed and in a position to make better decisions about what you want to do about it.