What to do when the news is too stressful

Healthy Living

Climate change, war, political debates – the news cycle cannot merely draw us into a loop, an unhealthy loop of feeling compelled to pick a side, but also significantly stress us out. The way political polarization has increased over the last few decades makes it difficult to stay neutral and calm in the face of hostile language over the significant conflicts of our time. In times of sensationalization, here are practical tips on what to do when the breaking news cycle is getting a bit too much:

1. Focus on the upside

This may be easier said than done, but even the most depressing events on the news have an upside. Whether it is people banding together during a crisis or acts of kindness caught on video, there are many positive aspects to humanity. Even when two very opinionated people are yelling at each other on a split screen, there’s a positive takeaway: disagreement is part of democracy, even when it’s loud… and much preferable to people beating each other over their quarrels.

2. Take a break from the news

Two-thirds of Americans feel worn out by the amount of news they consume. There’s no need to unnecessarily put yourself down while doom-scrolling social media or on your cable TV. Limiting your news consumption can do you a lot of good and send the message to the producers of the shows that the confrontational and sensational format they’ve chosen does not appeal to an increasing subsection of their audience.

3. Take action

Instead of overconsuming the live stream of the latest catastrophe, it makes sense to get active instead. This can take the shape of volunteering for a cause of creating online tools for people to learn more about the issue. Putting your own resources (time, effort, money) into making the world a better place is a much better starting point than the debilitating act of merely watching it unfold.

4. Refocus your mind

There are many moments in people’s lives where it is opportune to bring down stress levels. This can be achieved through simple steps such as going for a walk for fresh air, meditation, or even sugar-free chewing gum, which has been associated with reducing social stress. You should also focus on eating healthy food, getting a sufficient amount of sleep, and improving your overall well-being. Don’t forget, to help others and face the world, it is paramount that you yourself feel okay as well.

5. Select your news sources carefully

The way we consume news shapes our view of the world, which is why it is important that we carefully curate the way we consume news. To filter for good news sources, look for the track record of the outlet when it comes to their reputation, reliability, transparency and fairness. We can handle so many news subscriptions, but also on the news that is available online for free; make sure you diversify your news input by comparing stories between different outlets and across different mediums (TV, radio, magazines etc.). Is the news really as bad as you’ve just seen it displayed? Going for trusted news sources and comparing them with other outlets might just give you the answer.

6. Talk to someone you trust

When the news is overwhelming, engaging with people in your social circle makes sense to get perspective. It can help you feel less alone and more supported and provide the necessary context you need. While a news segment often only has limited time to cover the issues at hand, going for a coffee with a friend gives you the pause and reflection time to digest difficult news properly.

Elizabeth Hicks is the U.S Affairs Analyst at the Consumer Choice Center.