We listen in the car, watch TV, and scroll online to find the latest updates. This behaviour is natural because human brains constantly scan the world around us for danger. Our brains are predisposed to detect threats and avoid harm, so it can be hard to look away. The more news and information we consume, the more secure we think we are.
However, a research team at McGill discovered that the more negative news we consume, the more negative our thoughts and feelings are, leading to mental and physical health issues, such as heightened anxiety and acute stress. Many of us have been glued to the news over the past two years.
Here, we’ll explore why consuming too much information can negatively impact our mental health and what it means to become “News-Resilient.”
The Problem With Doom Scrolling
Doom scrolling refers to our need to compulsively follow the news no matter how upsetting. As a result, we are more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression.
The pandemic led to a constant influx of negative news, from the first lockdown to the various restrictions, hospitalization numbers, and death counts. We stayed apprised of these changes by tuning in daily, leaving little room in our lives for positivity.
One year into the pandemic, studies showed that one in five Canadians was experiencing mental distress. Two years into the pandemic, one in four Canadians is accessing mental health services, which is the highest this statistic has ever been since the pandemic.
Recently, many articles have focused on putting the news back in the box. While it is essential to be an engaged citizen, managing mental health is equally important.
Engaging in a Balanced Way
Staying informed is not the problem. When our news consumption becomes obsessive and starts impacting our mental health, it becomes an issue.
We must develop a relationship with the news that incorporates boundaries and self-care. To protect your mental health, consider the following tips to engage with the news in a balanced way:
- Limit your news intake time daily.
- Understand that headlines are written to be eye-catching, not unbiased or accurate.
- Try to be aware of how news headlines affect your mood and thoughts.
Strategies for Becoming News-Resilient
When becoming news-resilient, setting boundaries around how much news you consume is crucial. Set a time limit for how much news you will consume each day, at what time, and which medium. Many people find the addition of images challenging to turn away from; maybe a return to print reading might be a positive change. You may want to schedule a time each day to check the news. You may also want to adjust your phone settings, to reduce the number of unwanted notifications throughout the day.
Then, when you do engage with the news, monitor your emotions. Notice when you feel anxious or sad and write it down. You may wish to consider why specific stories lead you to feel negative emotions. Do you have a personal connection you have to the news story? Use journaling to process your feelings and identify patterns that can help you better navigate the news cycle.
When we are faced with huge issues that we feel insurmountable such as war, climate change, racism, and other social ills, we can feel powerless. Feelings of helplessness may be improved by volunteering your time to a cause you believe in or donating to an organization with an extensive reach. Taking action in a way that works for you can have positive benefits and impacts that ripple outwards.
Last, let the upsetting events in our world inspire gratitude for the many beautiful things in your life. Gratitude has many benefits on our mental health, and incorporating a gratitude practice in your daily life can help counteract the effects of news consumption.
Make Your Mental Health a Priority
You can’t control what is happening around the world, but you can control how you take care of yourself. For more information on mental health and practicing self-care, visit our blog.