By Anna Harcharik, LPC
Have you noticed that listening to, reading, or watching the news is beginning to impact your mental health? You’re not alone. Now that the news is accessible to us 24/7 on our phones—via social media, news forums, and podcasts—we are inundated by more visual, dramatic, and emotive material that is greatly impacting our mental health in the form of increased stress, anxiety, depression.
Research is showing a connection between the increase in volume and negativity in news sources and a person’s mood. With many news events being captured on smartphones, we’re now given a front row seat to upsetting images and extreme acts of violence. It’s easy to pick up a doomsday mentality that can leave us feeling frustrated and hopeless.
So what should we do? While we need to be informed about the world around us, it’s essential to keep up with the news without getting pulled into a black hole of depression or anxiety. Here are a few tips for doing so:
- Check in: This week, take note of how you are emotionally affected by news. Take a moment to see how you are feeling before you listen, read, or watch the news and how you feel after. Notice if you see any changes in your mood.
- Watch your news sources: Take note this week of the tone and words used in your regular news sources. Are they dramatic or do they have a divisive tone? These elements increase our negative response to news and can impact our ability to keep the news in perspective. You may need to go shopping for a new source of news by trying out a few alternatives.
- Watch the clock: How much time do you spend reading, listening to, and watching the news? This might add up to much more than you realize! Try setting a goal as to how much time you will allow yourself to consume news media to limit your exposure.
- Don’t forget social media: For many, social media is another news source. You may not think of it that way, but take a look at your social media feed and see if you notice a trend of political and news commentaries from friends and other sites you are following. These messages can be divisive and negative in nature and not always helpful in providing you with any additional insight or knowledge.
- What about some positive news? You may want to look into a positive news source to find encouraging information about the world around you. News sources are often drawn to the negative and most upsetting news events but often ignore positive events. A google search for “positive news “ should help you find sources of good news that might be just what you need at this time.
- Get counseling: When the news is extremely upsetting, it can be helpful to talk to someone about how you are being impacted by current events. A counselor can help you work through what you are feeling and help you develop self-care strategies to cope with upsetting news events.
As we continue to be inundated with negative news, it’s important to recognize the impact on our mental health. We also need to make sure we take care of ourselves by monitoring and coping with our emotional reactions to the news we read, listen to, and watch daily.