If you feel anxious after hearing about current events, rest assured you're not alone. Many people experience stress when faced with a constant barrage of headlines about topics such as war, climate change, social injustice and health crises.
Fortunately, there are ways to keep the news in perspective and prevent modern media from overwhelming you. Read on to understand how technology is changing the way we consume news and learn strategies for balancing the need to stay informed with your mental health.
Not so long ago, there were only a few sources for news. People learned about global events by picking up a print newspaper or turning on the evening news. Now, we're inundated by news from many sources, regardless of whether we're interested in it.
Here are some of the challenges we're dealing with when it comes to news in our fast-paced digital age.
There's no doubt we live in challenging times, but even though the news is difficult to absorb, we often can't stop reading it. It's even given rise to the word doomscrolling, which refers to the tendency to monitor the news continuously, even if it makes us feel sad, angry or depressed.
Our propensity to focus on bad news is known as negativity bias. It's partly human nature, as we instinctively want to gather facts to protect ourselves from possible dangers. But our attraction to these stories also stems from a desire to make sense of events or look for signs of reassurance that things will be resolved.
A study by Reuters Institute found that nearly four out of 10 people avoid the news — 36% say they do so because the news affects their mood. Nearly 30% say they're worn out by the amount of news available.
Research shows that too much exposure to negative news can be a source of chronic stress, causing feelings such as sadness, uncertainty, anxiety and helplessness. In some cases, depressing news stories can cause people to catastrophize personal worries that aren't directly relevant to the event.
Interestingly, the negative effects of reporting appear limited to hard news related to politics, the economy, international relations and social issues. Soft news, which includes human interest, sports, lifestyle and entertainment, has a marginally positive impact on mental well-being.
How do you balance staying informed and engaged in the world while also protecting your mental health? Here are some tips to limit the negative effects of modern news media on your life.
News is available around the clock, but you don't need hourly updates. Dedicate a time of day to catching up on current events — in the morning before you begin your day, for example, or when taking a rest in your assisted living apartment in the afternoon.
Pick a few trusted sources for news instead of reading every story on your social media feed, and ensure you're getting accurate information. Limit yourself to print articles instead of viewing upsetting or graphic videos. And remember, there's also good news in the world. Make an effort to seek out positive stories that bring hope and affirmation to your day.
After you've caught up on current events, shift your focus to the positives in your life and make the most of every day. Try gratitude journaling or meditation. Take a walk on the beautiful grounds of your senior community and enjoy some fresh air. Play a game of chess or have tea with a friend. You might also want to check out some faith-based books and movies that can inspire and entertain.
Make a difference in the world by taking action. Donate money to a charitable cause, or give your time to volunteering in the community and being of service to others.
It's natural to feel sad or anxious about local, national and global events. However, if your feelings persist and you're experiencing constant anxiety, worry or stress, reach out for help. Chronic stress can lead to depression, but support is available. Speak to one of our staff at Bethesda Senior Living, or talk to your doctor.