How Consumption of the News Affects Your Mental Health
Have you ever thought about how the news you consume might be affecting your mental health? Most of us don’t give it much thought, even when we don’t feel our best and wonder what it could be. News broadcasts are everywhere we go—in the car, the restaurant, the doctor’s office, and even the grocery store. It’s almost impossible to get away and listening can be addicting. There is always something new to be heard, some tragedy to watch, or some warning to heed.
With recent advancements in technology and social media, it’s easier than ever to stay connected with everything that’s happening in our own city and around the world. While there are positives to staying that connected, there are plenty of drawbacks as well. Most significant is the hit we take to our mental health when we consume too much news. High news consumption is linked to various mental health disorders, but it also depends on what type of news you watch and what sources you listen to. Some sources are much more positive than others.
Many individuals would give advice to not watch the news at all for the sake of your mental health, but then you wouldn’t be able to stay connected. There isn’t anything wrong with being too connected or not connected enough, but it’s best to consume the news in moderation, at least for the sake of your mental health.
You turn on the news and it’s yet another negative story. Car accidents, robberies, and more plague the front pages of magazines and TV screens everywhere you go. It’s hard to imagine anyone could stay sane in this environment. You may start to feel more fearful, worried, or anxious each time you step outside. This makes sense; when it seems crime is all around you, how could you not believe you’re going to be the next victim?
The problem is that the news generally tends to report the negative events over the positive ones. So, you might not hear about all the good news happening around you, but you’ll be sure to hear about the bad stuff. Keep this in mind when you’re consuming the news and consider that the world might not be as bad as it’s portrayed.
Just like you can get stuck scrolling on social media all day, the same can happen with the news. You might read one story which links to another which links to another and so on. Soon hours have passed and it’s time for bed. Meanwhile, a stack of homework or office papers sits unfinished on your desk. Now you’ve lost precious time and, since you’ll be up all night finishing these tasks, you’ve lost out on sleep as well. You’ll probably feel like your whole day was wasted.
The news can be addicting, so be careful with your consumption of it. You’ll be more productive when you use and manage your time well, plan out your day, and limit the distractions around you. This includes any technology in which you can access the news.
Monitoring Your Intake
As an adult, it’s up to you to monitor your news consumption. Gone are the days when your parents could take away your devices or put time restrictions on them. If you want to limit the time spent on the news, you’ll have to do it yourself. First, figure out how much time you want to spend on news stories each day or each week. You can set a screen time limit on your phone that’ll alert you when your time is up.
If you get to the end of the week (or day) and find your mental health has taken a hit, try lessening the time. Don’t be afraid to take a break altogether, whether for a day, week, or even longer. Resets are great for mental health and allow us to refocus on what really matters. Everything in moderation is the key to feeling your best.
Beyond anxiety, consumption of the news can also lead to depression. It’s hard to watch the world get seemingly worse each day, and you might start to feel helpless. Watching the news will emphasize all the problems in the world, not what’s going right. You’ll probably want to fix these problems, but as just one person, will lack the resources, influence, and schedule to do anything about them.
Wanting to help shows your empathy as a human being and should be celebrated. Although you may not have the power or ability to fix those big problems you see online or on the screen, you can make a difference right where you are. Realize that a lot of good is still happening around you and try to focus on that when you’re feeling especially down.
Stress, anger, anxiety, depression, and other feelings and symptoms are all common when you’re consuming too much news. At the very least, being aware of the effect it has on you is a great start. Some people can watch the news for extended periods of time and be mostly unaffected. For many others, the news can be devastating to their mental health especially after watching or listening for too long. You know yourself and your limits best. Set up healthy boundaries with technology and pay attention to how you feel.
Being informed is important, of course, but it should never be at the expense of your mind. If you are struggling with your mental health and breaks from the news don’t seem to be helping, consider reaching out to a therapist. They’ll be able to set up an action plan with you so that you can start feeling better. Remember that your reactions to the news are completely normal and valid, so don’t feel any shame about how it may or may not affect you.