Managing News Anxiety

I’ve always found balancing keeping up with the news and my own mental well-being to be a tough challenge, and I think 2020, in particular, has only served to exacerbate that problem for a lot of people. It’s understandable, we live in a very scary and uncertain time. It’s hard enough to figure out how to manage taking care of ourselves while staying informed in normal times, it’s almost unfathomable now.

We’re constantly bombarded with the latest news, fed to us through 24-hour cable news networks, and shoved in our faces by social media. It quickly becomes information overload, and it can be a lot to sift through. Our brains tend to latch on to the things that scare us, and the scariest news is what we end up taking away from the information dump. That would make anyone anxious.

The best thing you can do is control your news consumption, and give yourself a designated time to “freak out”. For example, I have a designated “news time” which is usually some time between lunch and dinner. Not so early it sets a bad tone for the day, and not so late that I’m up all night worrying about all the scary stuff. I open up Google News, see what’s going on, and have my “freak out time” and that’s it. I don’t allow myself to stress outside of that time.

Yes, I know it’s easier said than done to only give yourself permissions to stress for a limited stretch of time each day. That’s why the next thing is probably even more important, and that’s seeking out the good news. For me sometimes that takes the form of checking r/UpliftingNews, and other times I just catch up on my hobbies and interests. I personally like to do it as I’m winding down for the night, but anytime after your “freak out time” works.

Finally, another very important step is to take action. It’s easy to freak out and feel like you have no control over anything when you’re bombarded with bad news. But if you can identify one thing you can do, no matter how small, to take charge and control what you can then you can channel all that “freak out” energy into something productive. For example, back in June, I donated my time to create graphics that helped spread the word for a COVID-19 relief fund. It was small, but it gave me a sense of control over my fears and more importantly contributed to something that ended up going a long way towards helping people.

I’m not trying to discount the severity of what’s going on in the world today or say we’re not justified in our fears. Sometimes conquering fear isn’t eliminating it altogether, anxiety is supposed to serve a crucial role in our survival, after all, it’s about accepting that fear and not letting it get out of hand and consume you. At the same time, we can’t just ignore the bad stuff because it’s how we learn to protect ourselves. Panic is not productive, but neither is apathy.

Remember to take those deep breaths, and do what you can to keep yourself sane. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and look out for yourself and those around you.

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