Photo credit: Pexels
Studies have shown that media pundits and talk radio hosts suffer from stress-related health problems at a far higher rate than the average person. It’s not difficult to understand why. Reporting and researching the news can be an emotionally taxing job. The world may seem chaotic, and those who keep up with recent events can feel overwhelmed. Though it’s good to stay informed, watching, and obsessing about the news too often may result in anxiety, depression, and fear. Here is everything we know about media overload.
Consequences of Watching too Much News
We live in a data-driven world with too much available information. The quick and easy access to data has made us more informed, but more anxious. Before the digital age, people depended upon nightly newscasts and newspapers. With social media, citizen video uploads, and hourly updates, there’s enough information to make anyone feel stressed out. Consequences of this overload include-
1. Secondary Trauma
Secondary trauma is when an individual is removed from an event, but immersed enough in it that it makes it feel realistic. Images and words in the news can be graphic, emotional, and violent. If we are predisposed to anxiety or suffer from PTSD, these images and words can bring up repressed memories or induce panic.
2. Political Anger
Depending on the news outlet, stories may be biased or untrue. We may see the information that shows the side we like in a bad light and the side we don’t in a good light. Because politics is such a touchy subject, seeing “our side” in a bad light may cause us to feel angry and frustrated. It also makes us feel helpless – as though there is nothing we can do to control the situation or narrative. It can also increase our hatred of “the other side.” This enhances anxiety and hatred, which results in more mental health problems.
Seeing bad news can remind us of personal loss or trauma that we have experienced. It can remind us of the death of a loved one, a difficult situation we’ve encountered, or a time that we felt lonely and lost. Because there are fewer feel-good stories on the news, many of the stories invoke sadness and heartache. This can affect our mood for the entire day and cause us to feel hopeless.
How to Manage Media Overload
Though it’s important to stay informed, there are ways to minimize media overload and decrease the associated symptoms that come with it, including-
1. Take a Break if Undergoing Personal Stress
If your life is already difficult, or if you are trying to improve your mental health, the last thing you need is to watch the news. If something important happens, you will find about it. Try to minimize all news until you have worked with a therapist and learned to manage your stress-related problems. This will give you a chance to heal without overloading your brain with more negativity.
2. Do the Small Dose Trick
Turn on the news for a short time per day - only 10-15 minutes. It may be helpful to set a timer if you tend to lose track of time. Once the timer rings, turn off the news and go back to working on something else. This will help you stay informed without feeling overloaded.
3. Minimize Mindless Searching
Our phones are the top ways to find news stories, which can be both helpful and stressful. Set a limit on how many media sources you look at per day. Consider your phone in the same way that a person used a newspaper in the 20th century. People spent an average of 30 minutes looking through the paper and then put it down for the remainder of the day. That should be the longest you look at online news stories.
4. Do Something Productive
We often watch the news obsessively because it makes us feel more in control of the world. We think that if we stay updated, we are in control of what happens. This is not true. Think about what you can control in your life and focus on those things. Organize your house. Complete a work project. Call a friend. Make a home-cooked dinner. Plan a party. Do whatever you have to do to make you feel in control of your own life instead of trying to control the world.
5. Talk to a Therapist
If you find yourself obsessing over news events, it’s time to talk to someone. Obsessive news watching may be a symptom of something else, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, or depression. It can also be used as a distraction to avoid solving problems in your day-to-day life. If this is the case, talk to a counselor who can pinpoint the root cause of your struggles.
Does the news make you feel anxious and depressed? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.