Tibbs: Want less anxiety? Watch less news.

Columnist Ashley Tibbs explains the impact of news on mental health.

Ashley Tibbs

How much time do you spend watching, reading or scrolling through the news?

Especially in the age of COVID-19, it can be incredibly hard to unplug from the news. It seems like we are constantly being inundated with the latest information from TV, websites and social media sites like Twitter.

With all the uncertainty we’ve been feeling, you may feel like you have to be informed all the time.

I certainly do.

Unfortunately, it’s become clear too much news is bad for our health.

Yes, staying up to date on the latest news is critical during these uncertain times. Refreshing our feeds or paying close attention to the TV may help us reduce anxiety and uncertainty, but only temporarily.

In the long run, overconsumption of news will take a toll on our emotional and mental health

Negative news not only produces stress and anxiety, but it can also exacerbate our own personal worries, even if they aren’t directly related to what we’re watching or reading.  

When a crisis is happening, our bodies experience stress responses more rapidly and more frequently. This may result in physical symptoms, such as anxiety, fatigue or trouble sleeping. 

So what do you do when the news becomes too much? 

Focus on what you can control. Worry about your own personal health and safety by practicing social distancing, wearing a mask and washing your hands frequently. 

Take a step back from the news. Decide what information is helpful for you to know, such as updates from school or changes in face mask requirements, and what information causes anxiety or fear, such as the number of new cases or deaths per day. 

Be selective about the media you choose to view. Political news and discussions can cause stress in a lot of people, especially on social media. If engaging in political news on social media causes stress and frustration, then limit the time you spend on social media and unfollow accounts you feel are biased. 

Limit the amount of time you spend reading or watching the news each day. Schedule a “worry time,” where you scroll through the news, acknowledge the things that worry you and make a plan to deal with it. It’s best to do this during the day to avoid feeling worried or overwhelmed before bed, which can cause trouble sleeping. 

Gauge how you feel before checking in with the news. If you’re already feeling anxious or worried, then perhaps it’s not the best time to consume more upsetting information. Instead, take a break and do something to lift your mood, such as listening to music or exercising. 

Look for the good news. It is possible to engage with the media in ways that don’t make us feel upset or lonely. Follow social media accounts or websites that focus on positivity and uplifting stories.

It’s important to stay well-informed and be aware about what’s going on, but too much of anything can be bad for your health. Put your mental and emotional well-being first and take time to focus on yourself.