Since the election, many of us have started to engage and pay attention to the news with a fervor that we hadn’t before. But that can be taxing on the system. In fact, more and more people are feeling the burden of news and social media information overload.
But while we do want to make sure we’re active and informed, so we can make our voices heard like we did at the Women’s March, we still sometimes have to disconnect and decompress. Because otherwise, we’ll go nuts. So several experts weighed in on what makes us feel overwhelmed, so we can learn to be informed in a healthy way.
1Recognize when the uncertainty of the news is getting too great.
Leslie-Jean Thornton, a journalism professor at Arizona State University, told The New York Times, “It’s hard to step away, even for a few hours, but yet the constant wash of uncertainties is emotionally draining and physically harmful — teeth damaged from being clenched in anger or frustration, skyrocketing blood pressure, heart palpitations.”
If you start to feel ill or frantic or stressed, don’t be surprised if it’s caused by the news. So take a step back to ensure that the problems don’t persist.
2Self-care has become more important than ever.
In her interview, Leslie-Jean added, “I joke that we need trauma care, but I’m not really joking at all.” And it’s true. While we may not need to check into a hospital, we could all benefit from some self-care. Whatever makes you feel relaxed — a long bath, a good book, a kick-ass workout — make sure to put down the news and take time for yourself.
3If you feel your personal anxieties being affected, it’s definitely time to turn it off.
Graham C. L. Davey, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Sussex in England, explained that some people “are probably already anxious individuals, and are exactly the ones for whom negative news has a negative psychological impact on their own personal anxieties and worries.”
So if you’re reading the news, and you start to feel some of your personal anxieties creeping in, that’s a great sign that it’s time to turn it all off for a while.
4Consider turning your life into a “slow news movement.”
Inspired by the slow food movement, experts suggest limiting your time with news or the number of articles, and deeply reading what you do read. That way, you have read something deeply and hopefully understood it, but your whole day isn’t absorbed by your news feed. Also, make some coffee to enjoy or otherwise make the moment feel special, so you are satisfied, even if the news was difficult.
Nir Eyal, who writes a blog about “the intersection of psychology, technology and business” also suggests using the News Feed Eradicator for Facebook, which eliminates your feed and puts an inspiring quote. Nir also recommends deleting Twitter and Facebook from your phone, so you won’t always be checking your feed.
5Read the daily newspaper, and then stop.
Another possible way to put limits on your overall intake is to read just one daily newspaper. Nir said that made the act of reading news feel very finite. He said, “And when I physically turned the last page of the newspaper — such a satisfying moment — I felt as if I’d read enough to be informed for the day.”
6Stop reading news right before bedtime.
Reading news at night can get your brain whirling. Curtis W. Reisinger, a clinical psychologist at Zucker Hillside Hospital, said that thinking about how to respond to upsetting news can make your brain think too much about how to respond. He said it’s beter to watch sports or entertainment, rather than something that might worry you.
7And of course, if all else fails, look at something that makes you laugh or pictures of cute animals.
Because laughter and cuteness are always the best medicine.