Reading the news was a stress-inducing event even pre-pandemic. Add to that all that we’ve been through in 2020, including an election, national protests, lockdowns, and an insurrection at our nation’s Capitol, and it can feel completely overwhelming. Sometimes it feels impossible to walk away from the news.
When we experience anxiety levels so high that we have difficulty coping after watching the news, that’s when it’s time to consider ways to decompress. Anxiety can cause insomnia, migraines, chest pain, and, if left unmanaged, serious health problems. Staying “in the know” is important, but not at the risk of your mental and physical health.
If you’re looking for ways to decompress, we have a few ideas.
This seems like an obvious one, but it’s easier said than done, especially when we get news delivered to us via our phones, TVs, the internet, and our friends. Anger, hopelessness, and feelings of despair can make it difficult to be productive on a day-to-day basis, so schedule time (be it hours or days) and avoid the news altogether. Find a book you’ve wanted to read and pick that up during the times you’d usually check the news. Go for a walk to clear your head instead of flipping on the evening news. Small breaks can help put your mind at ease.
Many people have alerts set up on their phone from their trusted news source, so when a story breaks, you get that information immediately. This can cause serious disruptions throughout the day, which often leads to the rabbit hole of researching a news story further. Taking these off your phone or email can help alleviate the stress that comes from absorbing news all day, every day. If you can’t take a day or two to disconnect fully, setting a certain time during the day to get the latest headlines may work better.
There’s no shortage of bad news out there, so why not mix some good news in to help manage your stress? Actor John Krasinski created an entire show called Some Good News, devoted to nothing but positive stories, shortly after the pandemic began (which you can find on YouTube). Start following social media accounts of comedians, activists of causes you believe in, and, yes, even animals (because who can be stressed watching a dog in a swimming pool?). This can help lower your blood pressure and take the focus off the negativity in the world.
Self-care can come in many forms, and it’s a perfect way to combat stress. Have dinner with a friend (and leave your phone in the car), meditate, practice deep breathing exercises, or listen to music. Take time to focus on yourself and feel how your body responds. Chances are you’ll notice your heartbeat slow, your breathing return to normal, and your anxiety levels decrease. But don’t just do this when you feel stressed from the news; try incorporating this into your routine daily. Practice makes perfect and all that.
News cycles aren’t the only stressors when it comes to current events. Getting into heated conversations with others who may or may not share your same opinions can also induce stress and anxiety. Take time and think about how often you’re in those conversations (and how often you instigate them). If you feel like you struggle to maintain an even head or you feel stressed going into or leaving discussions about what’s happening in the world, evaluate whether they need to happen at all. Take time to just listen and observe rather than get involved. It may help relieve that stress.
If you find yourself obsessing over the news cycle, know you’re not alone. Of course, avoiding the news altogether for a prolonged time period comes with a position of privilege that many in underserved communities and marginalized groups don’t have the luxury of doing. Instead, ask yourself, “What can I do about this issue right now?” If the answer is nothing, take a step back (if you can) and focus on self-care — even if it’s for a few minutes at a time. If you want to contribute to the solution, look into local groups or associations that give you some control over finding a solution.
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