The instant, omnipresent information era brought us the possibility to closely follow worldwide events, get a peek into the lives of others, and reap the benefits of having access to global knowledge. But, it came with a price: We can’t process so much information every day without getting overwhelmed.
Being overwhelmed by the news can take mild forms of anxiety such as spending a lot of time thinking about that information, but it can also endanger our quality of life to a higher extent. It can impact the way we think, the way we initiate arguments or have discussions, or overwhelm us to the extent that we can no longer think about anything else.
But even knowing all of this, it’s difficult to stay away from social media and news channels, especially if there’s a social issue or crisis that affects us directly.
That’s why we’ve decided to write this article and share some tips on how you can protect your emotional wellbeing while also staying informed.
Know Your Triggers
Due to its content, daily news can be full of triggers for past traumas, intense emotions, fears, anxieties, stress, panic. Depending on how deeply rooted and how traumatic the past and current experiences are, encountering your trigger can result in a more or less severe reaction.
For example, if you tend to worry about your health, hearing and reading about the pandemic on a daily basis can initiate a panic response.
If you’re experiencing an emotional flood of anxiety, flashbacks, panic, rapid breathing, fatigue, or any other kind of unpleasant symptoms that are connected to the news you’re consuming, perhaps it’s good to ask yourself: Why is that so? What does the news stir inside you?
Our advice is to turn inward to seek answers. This will help you get to know yourself better. Also, knowing your triggers can help you:
- control your media time,
- observe your feelings,
- use your smartphone more mindfully,
- find healthy coping mechanisms through positive practices.
Control Media Time and Content
If media and news consumption are taking their toll on your mental health and overall wellbeing, consider taking a proactive approach and limit the time you spend reading and consuming news online, where everyone is sharing news or data, offering their opinions, commenting on events, arguing, etc. Getting lost in these toxic threads and negative vortex can significantly contribute to you becoming stressed, anxious, or developing other psychological symptoms.
A study conducted in 2014 compared the effects of watching 14 minutes of either positive, neutral, or negative news. The researchers found that only the group who read negative news reported increased anxiety and a negative mood. Furthermore, another recent study showed that people are 27% more likely to report having a happy day if they watched three minutes of positive news.
This means that the type of news you read matters a lot.
What you need is a conscious decision to take a break for a certain period. Use this time to analyze whether there is some kind of pattern in the way you consume media content. Does the time of day or your prior mental state have anything to do with the degree of negative impact on your experience?
A good solution is to limit your media exposure to certain parts of the day. You can experiment with reading the news when you’re not too tired––this way you can count on your resilience to triggers.
Everything about the way the message is conveyed has effects on you: The language or tone of voice used; the particular information that’s emphasized; the imagery and footage that goes along with it, and so on. That’s why we strongly recommend investing a bit more of your time into researching reliable, high-authority websites and traditional and social media that will provide you with objective facts only.
Pay Attention to Your Feelings
To be able to detangle your emotions, you need to know what it is that you’re experiencing and feeling in that particular moment. Practicing your emotional intelligence skills can give you a huge advantage in this context.
It is not your fault that you’re feeling difficult emotions, you have the right to feel that way. However, discovering, naming, and acknowledging your emotions gives you a certain sense of relief. This kind of relief is necessary to establish control over your reactions. You may not always know for sure what makes you sad or anxious, but you can choose how to deal with it.
Be More Mindful With Your Smartphone
What are your smartphone habits like? Do you tend to wake up and grab your phone to read disturbing stories before you’ve fully awakened? How we start our day has an effect on what the rest of our day will be like.
Make a change by becoming more mindful when using your smartphone.
Use Your Phone for something else in the morning
1. Positive affirmations;
2. Gratitude journaling with The Five Minute Journal app;
3. Playing meditation music;
4. Writing a message to your friend, partner, or parents.
Do other activities instead of grabbing your phone
2. Breathing exercises or short, five-minute meditation;
3. Reading a couple of pages of a book;
4. Filling out The Five Minute Journal;
5. Getting a glass of water;
6. Making your bed.
You can also set up reminders to mute your phone or use Do Not Disturb mode for a couple of hours––this should help you limit your daily phone time.
Work on Your Health
Doing things to positively impact your physical health can help you gain more control over your symptoms, and even alleviate them.
A healthy body is more resilient to stress and can help you react to stress more positively.
Here are some of the things that you can do to work on your physical health:
Be mindful of your food
A balanced diet with less saturated fats, salt, and sugar, regular meals, proper hydration, and eating slowly are all good ways to work on your immune system.
Your workout routine doesn’t have to be extensive or intensive, but it’s important that you have it. This helps you maintain your endorphin and serotonin levels and become more resilient in stressful situations.
Get enough sleep
One of the pillars of health is to get enough sleep and to sleep in regular cycles.
There are a plethora of things you can do that are part of the practice of mindfulness, such as gratitude and other types of journaling, meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises. Even spending time in nature can be therapeutical, too. Choose whatever helps you keep calm and gives you security in life.
Practice Positivity, Too
You can always counterbalance the negativity you encounter every day on the news and social media with a positivity practice.
All the activities mentioned above such as practicing mindfulness, exercise, spending time with friends and people who are important to you, focusing on yourself (doing something you love each day), gratitude journaling, reflective journaling, reading one positive piece of news every day––these are all positive practices you can instill into your life to balance your daily intake of news.
Staying up-to-date in the time of the information revolution seems to be easier than ever. We are two clicks away from anything we want to know. Beautiful as it is, diminishing borders of culture and information comes with a price tag. We are overexposed to all kinds of information but, at the same time, we are aware that we can not keep up with it all. Sometimes, even our local context is too much because there are way too many sources reporting on the same thing.
Building an objective opinion about a topic can sometimes mean reading all the sources so as to figure out what facts are consistent across the board. This process can be extremely toxic, especially if we’re talking about political problems.
That’s why we all need to learn how to protect ourselves from information overload. Everything we read and consume leaves an emotional footprint. However, by employing the simple strategies listed above, you can counterbalance news that are heavy on your heart and mind and resist the negativity bias we, humans, are so prone to.