In this hyperconnected world, where the average person touches their phone around 2,600 times a day, it’s no wonder that many are overwhelmed with all the information we receive. With the internet’s high accessibility, we can receive information from a wide variety of sources, and we can also gain information from a variety of sources.
Amongst that information is the news. Staying informed is an important part of being a responsible citizen and essential for our safety. But what happens when staying informed stresses you out and increases your feelings of anxiety?
Here are some tips on staying informed while protecting your mental wellbeing.
Moderate your news intake
Set boundaries around when and how often you consume news. Consider limiting your news intake to certain parts of your day and avoiding it during your most vulnerable times of the day (e.g., in the evenings or before bed).
Decide which news format is the least distressing for you
Using different media formats can be a helpful way to stay informed without allowing yourself to become completely consumed. Different formats can include written, audio or video content in their long and short-form formats.
Be intentional about news consumption
Turn off any notifications from your news apps and unfollow news accounts on social media. This helps prevent being bombarded into a reactive news-reading state. This will make it easier to stick to the news consumption boundaries you have set for yourself.
Choose reputable news sources
It’s too easy for misinformation to spread. Some characteristics of a reputable news source are:
- Content that is factually accurate and any errors are corrected publicly.
- Refers to verified and reputable sources (journals, people).
- Doesn’t use clickbait headlines or scare tactics to attract readers.
- Clearly identifies the author of the article.
- Produces original content as opposed to content curated from other sources
Look out for confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is a psychological term for our human tendency to solely seek out information that supports our opinions, beliefs and ideas. When confirmation bias is at play, any information that is contrary to your beliefs is quickly discounted. It can be very deceptive and increases the risk of becoming narrow-minded. One of the ways you can challenge your own confirmation bias is by actively looking for information that contradicts a belief you hold. That isn’t to say you have to relinquish your beliefs, but you might find information you hadn’t considered or areas on the topic where we just don’t have a clear answer.
Use critical thinking skills
Here the word critical doesn’t mean to criticize. A critical mind is one that questions and learns with an open mind. When reading the news, we can use some of the following critical thinking steps:
- Separate fact from opinion
- Be aware of a source’s potential for bias
- Compare and contrast different perspectives, interpretations, and viewpoints
- Use your own reasoning to come to a conclusion
Failing to think critically when consuming the news is one of the ways that we can fall prey to false information.
Share your thoughts with people you know in real life
Having conversations with friends and family, even when there is a difference in opinion, can help you make sense of the world you live in. Having conversations with people you value can help build confidence in having your own opinion. If you find something in the news quite distressing, having a conversation about it is likely to help you process it better than getting lost down a rabbit hole.
Avoiding the news altogether is usually a sign that a person has a low stress tolerance and possibly little to no capacity for new information. Staying informed enables us to make informed decisions. Burying your head in the sand is not a responsible strategy, nor is it likely to work. Taking regular breaks can help lighten the load and also prove that it is not necessary to check the news multiple times a day. When taking a break, decide how long the break is for, what a break means (i.e., does that include social media), and what you will do instead. During this break, it might be a good idea to see how you feel about the break. Is it easy? Do you find your fingers reaching for that particular app (you know the one)? Or maybe, as if by magic, you find yourself on said app without even realising it.
Reach out for help
Behavioural patterns such as doomscrolling and excessively checking the news can be an outlet for underlying mental health issues. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out for support. There are people out there who want to help you.
Ways to seek help:
If keeping up with the news is impacting your mental (e.g., anxiety, depression, ruminating thoughts) and physical well-being (e.g., insomnia, digestive issues, muscle tension), it could be a sign that it’s time to reach out for professional help.
Kaysha Thomas is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Pilates Instructor and mental health blogger. She writes about mental health, eating disorder recovery, nutrition and Pilates. You can read Kaysha’s blog.