Coping with the news

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At times, the news cycle can be mentally exhausting.

When upsetting stories dominate our headlines, feeds and screens it can feel as though the world is filled with nothing but worry. These worries can in turn take on a life of their own in our heads, becoming “what ifs” that dominate our thoughts as we speculate on what might happen next.

What’s important to realise is that the news is just one way to view the world around us. Staying informed is no bad thing, but it’s important that we balance this with care for our own mental health at the same time.

Protecting your mental health from bad news

If you are struggling to cope with the news and feel it’s negatively affecting your mental health, try keeping the following points in mind.

News exaggeration

 

News often exaggerates to attract views

A glance around news media on a bad day can make it feel as if the world is coming to an end, with headlines seemingly shouting that the worst possible outcome is only days away.

Always remember, news outlets and websites are always trying to attract attention and that they are prone to exaggerating in order to do this.

Headlines and article titles that shock, result in more attention, so it’s not uncommon to see headlines which speculate on potential disasters, even if they’re quite unlikely. Scary headlines can often be attached to comparatively minor events.

Bad news stories get more attention than good ones

For the same reason that shocking possibilities are exaggerated, news outlets often tend to prioritise unpleasant news about accidents and serious crime over more positive stories.

At times, this can make it seem as though nothing but terrible things are happening around the world. However, bear in mind that this is the result of a narrow focus on one kind of story.

When you are faced with a wall of bad news, remind yourself – kindness, being brave and generally good things are occurring at the same time, even if they are not being actively reported.

As a way to improve your mood, try searching for positive news round-ups online, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find!

Unreliable news is everywhere – learn to recognise and avoid it 

Particularly on social media, it’s not uncommon for what initially appears to be ‘news’ to be disproven after it’s been widely shared and commented on.

Not knowing what news to trust can leave us feeling increasingly uncertain and scared, so it’s important to learn which sources we can trust and how to spot the unreliable ones quickly.

Recognise fake news

Consider the following when you are trying to spot fake news or unreliable sources:

  • Be skeptical, think before you like and share – giving false information a signal boost means it will go further and deceive more people. Take a moment to look closely before reacting.
  • Examine the source closely – do you recognise them as a reliable news source? If you’re looking at it online, is it the real one posting? Remember that spam accounts can often pretend to be famous people, so watch out for usernames, followed by long strings of random letters and numbers.
  • Consider the language used – does it seem unprofessional, opinionated or sensational? Unprofessionally written news is unlikely to have been professionally reported.
  • Compare with other sources and fact check – Can you find other separate sources that confirm what someone has said or done? Is there reliable evidence from an impartial source?
  • Beware memes! – While funny in some cases, memes often distort the truth for humorous effect. Even if something has gone viral, be cautious and check with a reputable source whether the point in question is actually factual.

Check the news once a day – don’t let it BECOME your day

When a serious news story breaks it’s often tempting to keep checking back on it to see what happens. This can reinforce a cycle of anxiety where we are continually waiting for new information or being worried by new developments.

A good way to ensure you stay informed while simultaneously stopping bad news from dominating your mood is to limit yourself to a single daily viewing. When and how you do this is up to you, but make it a specific routine so you are more likely to stick to it.

Notifications on devices can also play a part in this. If you have apps or settings which constantly send you intrusive updates about the news, consider disabling them so you can control when you look at it.

Talk with friends and family about a news related worry

There’s nothing wrong with being worried about something in the news and talking to someone you trust about it can provide a great deal of relief.

If you are persistently worried about something you’ve heard on the news, try talking to family or close friends asking what they think. They may be able to offer reassurances about it, or at least show that you are not alone in your concerns.

Time away from news

Take an extended break from the news

In some cases, the thought of completely shutting out the news may be a source of anxiety in itself, causing you worry about what you might miss.

With that said, if the news is causing you to feel persistently low then it’s important to recognise that your mental well-being is more important. Keep in mind that the news cycle will continue without you, being no better or worse without you reading it.

Try taking a week away from news updates and see if it helps how you are feeling by the end.

Do you need someone to talk to about a worry?

If you a persistently feeling low or worried about world news, or anything else on your mind you can confidentially contact the following to talk about it:

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