In the age of 24-hour news cycles, live feeds, and app notifications, it can be difficult to step away and take a break from the news. With smart phones and the internet, we have constant access to news, but this can lead us to develop unhealthy habits in relation to news consumption which, in turn, can feel overwhelming and have a huge impact on anxiety.
Worry and anxiety are normal human responses to stressful events and situations, and some strong triggers for worry are situations that are ambiguous, new, and/or unpredictable. Stories in the news often match this description, so it makes sense that the news might make us worry. Nevertheless, excessive worry can have an impact on our ability to cope.
Our anxiety page has lots of hints and tips in relation to managing anxiety, but when news is a trigger, the tips below in particular may help you to manage how you're feeling.
You can also speak to a member of the Keeping Well in South East London team by opening the chatbox if you'd like some support with how you're feeling at the moment.
Alternatively, it can goood to connect with others at difficult times, so why not head over to our Community Forum to chat to your peers about how you're feeling?
Our tips for managing news anxiety
Limit your exposure: dedicating certain times of the day to consuming news will mean that you stay informed about what is going on, but aren’t letting the constant news cycle control you. An example might be to set yourself two half-hour slots at the beginning and the end of the day to catch up with what's going on in the world. Turning off notifications from apps might be one way to help this aim.
Consider your news sources: it can hard to escape the news when we're exposed to world events from all angles, e.g., the internet, on dedicated news apps, on TV, on social media, and on podcasts, to name just a few. As with limiting your exposure to news, taking a break from other sources can help reduce information overload.
Be compassionate with yourself: the world is a difficult place at the moment, but when things are overwhelming and we feel helpless, practising self-compassion is a positive step we can take to make a difference. Self-compassion involves being aware of our own pain and suffering, and understanding that it's normal to be feeling anxious and worried at the moment. Do your best to practice acceptance of whatever emotion you’re feeling in the moment and remember that the emotion will dissipate with time.
Notice your unhelpful thoughts and schedule some 'worry time': worrying can consume our thoughts and stop us from focussing on other things, whereas trying not to think about what is bothering us can make worries feel worse. It can be a good idea to schedule a particular time in the day to let yourself worry. This helps us to gain control over our worries, as we are setting boundaries with our own mind. You could try writing down your worries when they come to mind, continuing with what you're doing and then coming back to them during your scheduled time. This could be half an hour at the end of each day, for example.
Engage in some healthy distraction: keeping yourself busy with things that make you feel good can be a helpful way of taking your mind away from the news. If you start to feel overwhelmed, you could try taking yourself outside for a walk, phoning a friend to discuss something that isn't the news, or watching some TV that you enjoy.
Maintain your normal routine: sometimes when we're feeling anxious, our normal routine goes out the window. Routines are a really important way of helping us stay well, as when we have a routine we're making sure we're setting aside time to protect our mental and physical health, and maintaining healthy habits.
Prioritise keeping yourself well: maintaining healthy habits such as exercising, eating nourishing food, and getting enough sleep are small ways that can have a big impact on our ability to cope with day-to-day challenges. Have a look at our resources on keeping yourself well for some helpful hints and tips.
Focus on the here and now: doing your best to avoid catastrophising and thinking about the future can be really difficult to do when our mind is constantly wandering to worries and negative thoughts. Practising meditation and mindfulness can help by teaching you to focus your attention on the present moment and to keep bringing your attention back to this even when worries are competing for your attention.
Verifying news sources
Ensuring that the news we consume is accurate and from reputable sources can be invaluable in allowing us to stay up to date while managing anxiety. Lots of so-called news these days is written with the intention to shock, which might mean it's not presented in the most objective way, or even reports misinformation, which can massively feed fears and worries that we already have.
The below infographic provides some good tips on evaluating your news sources:
Psychology Tools guide: Living with worry and anxiety amidst global uncertainty
Centre for Clinical Interventions: Self-Compassion - workbooks and information sheets
Good News Network: an online newspaper which publishes positive and uplifting news stories.
Headspace: a subscription-based app that has over 500 meditations to help with various challenges in life. NHS staff have free access until 31 December 2022! See this link for their recommended meditations for managing news anxiety.
Keeping Well North Central London: Podcast on Re-establishing Routine as a Way of Coping with Change
Full Fact: a website run by a team of independent fact checkers and campaigners who aim to find, expose and counter the harm bad information can do.