Staying abreast of current events requires very little effort these days, but this unparalleled access to news comes with a major price. We often don’t realize what all this bad news doing to us while we’re watching a natural disaster unfold in real time or viewing graphic footage of a deadly tragedy on Twitter. If we’re not more mindful about what we expose ourselves to, we could run the risk of negative news overload.
Despite the desire to be informed or help others recover from tragedy, there comes a point when it’s totally fine to turn off the news after something horrific occurs.
Here’s why you should feel free to unplug, because your overexposure to trauma that you can’t fix isn’t really helping anyone.
1It can impact your mental state.
Constantly absorbing bad news does harmful things to us even if we’re not directly impacted by it.
While experts don’t believe that overexposure to bad news causes mental illness in those who aren’t already pre-disposed, they do say that it can exacerbate symptoms for people who already suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression.
2It can affect you physically.
A typical reaction to bad news is worrying, whether you’re concerned about people displaced by a natural disaster or fear of your safety in public spaces when something tragic like the Las Vegas mass shooting occurs. In either case, worrying can manifest itself in the body in the form of insomnia, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, muscle tension, nausea, and more.
3It can make you feel helpless.
After being constantly bombarded with all the gloom and doom happening around the world, it’s totally understandable to feel overwhelmed and helpless. What can one person do to prevent things like this from occurring, and will whatever you do really make a difference?
Not reading about bad news probably won’t make you feel any less helpless, but if you’re not actively consuming negative media, you could at least avoid those feelings until you feel more empowered to contribute, whether by donating blood after a shooting or volunteering to help those displaced by deadly storms.
4You could begin to develop a negative world view.
How many times have you seen a tragedy unfold on TV or on social media and thought to yourself, “OMG, I cannot wait for the colonization of Mars”? Sure, it’s a bazillion miles away, but all this devastation happening on Earth can make you feel like our home planet is a lost cause. Eventually, you could start to believe that nothing good is happening anywhere, and the negative attitude would almost assuredly have a trickle-down effect on your life, including how you feel about friends, family, and co-workers.
5You can become addicted to bad news.
Even though constantly focusing on coverage of traumatic events can produce debilitating physical and mental symptoms, there’s still a danger of becoming addicted to bad news. It’s evident when you’ve spent the past 48 hours watching news reports or scrolling through social media in search of tragedy-related updates. Seeking out bad news can so easily become like a craving you can’t satisfy no matter how anxious, sad, or disturbed you are by what you’ve witnessed.
6The bad news isn’t going anywhere.
You may feel like you’re missing out on the latest update if you take a break, but unfortunately, the stories will be there when you return from your bad news hiatus.
7Avoiding bad news is a legitimate form of self-care.
Just like you choose to take a day off from work when you’re stressed out, you can choose to limit your exposure to traumatic news for the sake of your well-being.
So do what you have to do. Block or mute people on your social media feeds if they continuously share updates about the latest traumatic incident. Turn off the TV and take as much time off from reading about negative events, and let your friends and family know that you’d rather not discuss the news either.
Many of us don’t pass on viewing news that upsets us because we want to know what’s going on or we feel guilty for ignoring the pain and suffering of others. But the fact is, we can’t be of service to anyone else if we don’t prioritize our own health, and that includes managing how often we allow ourselves to take in unpleasant imagery and words.