Are You Addicted to Negative News?
The media we consume daily has an impact on our thinking, behavior and emotions. Given the sensational nature of the 24-hour news cycle, most media outlets end up reporting on crises, disasters or other stories that are likely to shock and draw in readers and viewers. Our brain responds to this stressful or negative news as a threat and our sympathetic nervous system kicks into fight or flight mode, producing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Recurrent exposure to this stress can impact both our physical and mental health and cause symptoms like headaches, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Negative news can also affect mood and lead to feelings of hopelessness, anger and fear. These bleak stories can also exacerbate worries about our own personal lives even if they aren’t directly related to the content of the news story.
The rest of your physical health is also affected by constant news watching, as more hours in front of the TV typically means you are more often inside or cooped up. Studies have shown that people who spend more than 4 hours watching television are at a higher risk of depression. By sitting and watching, you are also getting less physical activity. It is a vicious cycle and only further emphasizes the need to take a break from the news to preserve your mental and physical health. While staying informed on public health guidelines is crucial for your safety, moderation is key. Here are our tips for limiting your news intake and managing headline stress.
- Set time limits- If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the constant barrage of headlines, try setting aside regular time in the morning or afternoon to check your newsfeed or read the news and give yourself a time limit. Develop a routine that allows you to stay up to date on the most important events without spiraling down rabbit holes on news sites.
- Stick to a few news sources- With so much uncertainty in the world right now, it may be tempting to consume as much information as possible. Get the information you need to prepare and keep you and your family safe from a few trusted sources. Once you have that information, move on with your day. There is no need to keep reading and stressing yourself out if you have already caught up on the most important information.
- Avoid the news before bed- Reading or watching the news right before bed is likely to induce anxiety and keep your mind racing. The blue light from your TV or electronic devices may also be
interfering with your body’s natural sleep cycle. Protect yourself by avoiding the news at least an hour before you go to sleep.
- Seek good news- Though it may seem like everything coming out of the news is negative these days, there are outlets sharing positive more uplifting stories. Check out social media accounts like Some Good News, Upworthy and Good News Network.
- Do something good for yourself- After reading or watching a negative news story, you may be left feeling worried or depressed. Prevent yourself from obsessing over these thoughts or spiraling into despair by immediately doing an uplifting activity right after. Go on a walk, call a friend, meditate/yoga or watch a fun TV show. When reading or viewing news stories, it’s important to check in with yourself and see how they make us feel. Do you feel an increased sense of community, connection and shared humanity or increased feelings of anxiety and despair? If the news you’re consuming isn’t providing information that educates you on how to stay safe and instead is contributing to fear and depression, try switching news outlets or pulling back on the news more often; your health and well-being are more important!