Reading the news has always had the potential to be stressful, but lately it feels like every time I look at my phone I’m being bombarded with new, alarming information about something happening in the world. It’s becoming easier for me to feel overwhelmed by the news I read every day. And I don’t think I’m alone in noticing the toll it’s been taking on me.
If you’re struggling with stress or anxiety related to the headlines, you may notice that you’re feeling more cynical or negative than you used to. You may notice that you’re finding it hard to engage and concentrate, or feel overwhelmed by things that used to come easy to you.
Why Am I So Overwhelmed By The News?
We have access to a 24/7 news cycle through our phones, our televisions, and an vast array of social media outlets. And while there are benefits to having such readily available access to information, the constant exposure to the news cycle can perpetuate feelings of anxiety, sadness, and hopelessness.
Constantly checking your phone or seeing headlines on social media can create more attunement to the tragedies and traumas that are experienced by people in all parts of the world. Traumas that don’t actually have an immediate personal impact can now instantly become our focus and impact our emotional wellbeing. This can feel jarring, and at times may impact your sense of hope and control.
It can be difficult to find a way to stay aware and engaged, while also maintaining boundaries with news consumption that support your mental health.
5 Ways to Cope With Being Overwhelmed By The News
I created a list of 5 ways to cope with the 24/7 news cycle that may help you to feel less overwhelmed by the news you’re consuming. These tools are meant to help you feel a little more in control of what you’re consuming, why you’re consuming it, and the impact it has on your mental health. See what happens for you as you start by making small, intentional changes about how you engage with the news!
1. Set Firm Time Limits
Consider setting some time limits around your media use. For example, allow yourself 20 minutes of media consumption in the morning before closing your news apps for the day. This can help regulate your media use and ensure that you have ample time to devote to other activities that are often forgotten when you end up down the never ending “rabbit hole” of online information (for example… ever had to rush through your lunch break after spending too much time online?!).
Finding this challenging? I often recommend setting an actual timer on your phone so that you don’t lose track of time. This can help to hold you accountable and increase your awareness about the actual amount of time you’re consuming media.
2. Wait a While to Consume News When it Breaks
Having access to media 24/7 means that we have access to news the moment it happens. However, the information we get in those moments is often incomplete, speculatory, or reinforcing a sense of crisis and instability. This often perpetuates behaviors like constant phone checking and/or staying glued to your phone for updates, which can increase feelings of anxiety and urgency.
Instead of jumping to read the latest news story the second it breaks, see if you can allow yourself to wait until the end of the day to catch up on the news. After giving yourself time before reading, you can also check in with yourself to ask if this news story is something you want to spend time consuming and how much time you want to spend engaged with the information.
3. Make Sure You’re Getting Some Positive News
Many of the headline grabbing media posts popping up on our phones these days have a sense of doom, urgency, and crisis. This can reinforce negative perceptions and feelings of overwhelm that you’re experiencing. Make sure you’re checking in with yourself about the type of content you’re consuming and balance out negative with some positive (I am a huge fan of cute animal videos!).
Signs it’s time to check in with something positive? An overwhelming sense of dread and doom, feeling hopeless, feeling restless or on-edge, or having a difficult time focusing on anything but the most recent crisis.
4. Set Limits on News-Related Conversations
It’s easy to engage in conversations about headline grabbing news without recognizing the impact it has on your mental health. At times you may even feel obligated to have an opinion or a reaction to something that’s going on. Remember that you always have a choice about engaging in conversations and that it’s okay to limit conversations that feel draining or overwhelming.
You may want to let people know that you’re limiting conversations about a particular topic, perhaps to a lunch break or after work, so that it doesn’t distract you or bring your mood down during the day. If you do get caught up in an unintended conversation, see if you can end it on a positive or humorous note. For example, ending a difficult conversation with some gratitude about something going on in your life.
5. Make Intentional Choices About When You Consume News
It may be helpful to make intentional choices about when you want to consume news. Is there a time after work that you want to catch up on news? Does checking the news on your lunch break help or hurt your mood? Perhaps reading too much news before bed can lead to ruminating anxiety and overwhelming that may impact your sleep. Likewise, reading too much news early in the morning may have an impact on your mood for the rest of the day.
Check in with yourself and ask whether or not the news you’re reading is actually important at that moment. Do you need to know what’s going on in the middle of your work day or right before you cook dinner? Is the news you’re consuming important to know before you fall asleep?
Can Therapy Help Me Feel Less Overwhelmed By The News?
Constant stress and overwhelm from the news cycle can to cause difficulties such as exhaustion, poor sleep, irritability, emotional reactivity, and even physical health concerns like headaches, muscle tension, or digestive concerns. Over time, persistent stress and overwhelm may lead to burnout, a state of exhaustion and detachment caused by prolonged physical and emotional stress.
Talking about feelings of overwhelm from the news can help you find adaptive ways to cope and explore more balanced perspectives that support your goals. A therapist skilled in helping identify feelings of overwhelm can help you determine how you want to move forward and create changes in your habits that support your mental health.
If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the news, considering reaching out to me for a consultation. Let’s work together to make things feel more manageable so that you can get back to focusing on what matters most to you!