Picture this: you wake up at 5 am, restless and unable to sleep. You look at Twitter, and notice a news update and find yourself scrolling through social media. You switch over to your laptop and catch the headlines.
A headache comes on and you can no longer go back to sleep, feeling anything from mild panic, to an overwhelming sense of fear. You can’t sleep due to anxiety from watching the news, and the cycle of worry continues.
Most would agree that 2020 has been unusually tough. And in a world of 24/7 news updates, it’s impossible to escape this hard reality. For many, this intense barrage of information no longer nourishes the mind but drains it. Anxiety from watching the news is a common problem.
In 2017, a study by the American Psychological Association showed that US citizens were monitoring the news more closely than previously, with one in ten checking the news on an hourly basis. More than half of those surveyed (56 percent) stated that while they wanted to stay updated with current affairs, doing so caused stress.
It’s normal to feel anxious during a crisis, but there are simple steps you can take to look after your mental health. How do you deal with anxiety from watching the news?
Here are eight habits if you’re suffering from anxiety from watching the news:
1. Congratulate yourself
It is not a sign of weakness to stop watching, reading, or listening to the news if it is causing you distress. Contrary to hiding away from reality, you are taking positive, proactive action, enabling you to be the best version of yourself.
Just as you need to fit your own life jacket before securing that of others, you need to take care of yourself first if you want to serve others.
A self-imposed break from the news is an opportunity to recharge and become the person you want to be.
2. Try a digital detox
News is presented not only on the television but also via our laptops, radios, and mobile phones, often indirectly and subconsciously. A detox does not need to be a longterm total blackout; even a morning off every week can make a huge difference to your mental health.
Start with a short, one-off break from the news, then consider scheduling in regular and wider digital breaks throughout the week.
3. Schedule pull, not push, news updates
Be mindful of when you are accessing the news and your sources. Seek updates at the times you feel you strongest. Whether you’re more resilient in the mornings or weekends, make a plan when you will access the news and stick to it.
Seek out information, rather than letting unsolicited news updates drip into your life. Censor the websites that cause you distress, and opt for sources that you can manage more easily. For example, the Good News Network features positive, uplifting stories across current affairs.
4. Make a news shopping list
Seek out practical, essential information as opposed to mindless scrolling through online magazines. If you want to support a cause, reach out to a relevant organization, rather than wading through online news and social media.
If you’re feeling anxiety from watching the news during the day, jot down your concerns. Then, at a planned time slot, take the action you feel necessary, whether it’s donating to a charity, signing a petition, or reaching out to a friend in need.
And don’t feel you need to complete your ‘to do’ list in one sitting. It’s about creating a manageable, long-term action plan.
5. Opt for words over video
Reading a newspaper is a less sensory, more controllable way of accessing the news compared to a video. Watching the news on a television or a computer can create longer-lasting negative memories than reading a newspaper or speaking to a friend.
Avoid overloading your senses with distressing scenes and instead focus on accessing the practical information you need. If you can no longer cope with news in any measure, consider asking a friend or family member whom you trust to update you with what you need. Asking a trusted third person is a great way of accessing the information you need while caring for your mental health.
6. Fix a daily routine
Sticking to a routine that includes daily exercise and socialization is vital for your mental health. Make a holistic self-care plan, including creative, relaxing and social activities. Whether it’s a morning of prayer, a revitalizing bath, hanging family photos, a phone call to friends, or a self facial, it all helps boost your mood.
7. Nurture yourself in nature
While it might not be possible to go for a long walk in the countryside right now, you can still seek solace in nature. Whether it’s taking in the fresh air at the window while reading a book, keeping houseplants, or opening your windows to the sounds of nature, a taste of the outdoors can help lift negative feelings, in turn strengthening your resilience to the stress of today’s world.
8. Notice the difference between anxiety, a diagnosable mental health condition, and feeling anxious because of current affairs.
Either way, if anxiety is negatively impacting your daily routine for a prolonged length of time, speak to a qualified mental health counselor or therapist. It’s normal to have up and down days, it’s normal to get stuck in the funk now and again, but if you’re unable to get out of bed, get dressed, shower, work or socialize (including virtually), get help from a qualified therapist.
Nina edits The Expater, a lifestyle blog for expats and globally-minded women. The Expater features expert advice and personal stories on all things international lifestyle, including relationships, careers, wellbeing, and skincare. Follow her on instagram and Facebook.