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Limit news and social media consumption, and get your news from reliable sources | Mental Health

Updated: May 29

Gareth Hoyle, Managing Director at Marketing Signals

The last two years have been tough on everyone with the pandemic and now with a war raging in Ukraine, the need to stay connected can be exhausting and take its toll on our mental health. It may seem like a lot to process - and it is. Feeling overwhelmed by world events, big or small, is natural.

Over the last two years we’ve had to constantly adjust our lives to fit ‘the new normal’ with lockdowns and restrictions, and now with a war in Eastern Europe, simple tasks may become challenging. You may even be experiencing ‘pandemic brain’, a phenomenon seen in people after lockdown where stress has caused fatigue, loss of concentration and other mood changes.

Consuming the news can activate our sympathetic nervous system, which causes the body to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. When a crisis is happening and we’re seeing regular, rolling news updates, we may experience physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. Some of the most common symptoms include trouble sleeping, fatigue and depression.

It’s important to stay up to date but in order to protect your mental health, here are a few simple tips to help you balance staying informed and not becoming overwhelmed by world events:

Limit news and social media consumption

Make sure you take the time to switch off and limit your news consumption. Our brains have a natural negativity bias; a primal survival instinct to scan our environment for threats. The more time we spend ‘doom scrolling’, the worse we feel.

Try only watching the news, say, once a day and turning off notifications for news bulletins or updates on any apps you may have. You may be receiving part of a story, or an update which may not end up being as bad as it first seems. If you limit yourself to getting an update once a day, then you’re more likely to get the whole picture and you’ll feel less overwhelmed. You could also try putting your phone away during the day, and on your lunch hour read a book or chat with a colleague about something non-work or current events-related.

Only get your news from reliable sources

While social media can be a good source of information at times, it can also be used to share lots of misinformation from unreliable sources. If you have followers who are persistently sharing updates on world events, posting upsetting information and videos or sharing questionable links, then it’s best to hide their posts or unfollow them for the time being. They may not be verified sources and you may be upsetting yourself over nothing. Make sure you get your news from a reliable source like a news channel or a newspaper’s website. This information will have been verified and will be direct and clear. It will also come from journalists who are able to provide a balanced perspective.

Set boundaries

If you have a friend or family member who’s constantly sending news updates in a group chat or on social media, or insists on current events-related conversations that are only triggering anxiety and stress for you. You should consider setting some boundaries and either politely asking them to stop or mute notifications so you aren’t seeing every message and update from them. Have a conversation with them and say you’d like to talk about something else instead.

Do something fun or relaxing

You may start to focus too much on the news, even if you’re limiting yourself to one update a day. To take your mind off the situation, once you’ve had your update, you could try doing something fun or relaxing immediately after. Switch off the TV or put your phone away and call up a friend or spend some time focusing on a hobby. You could even try some mindfulness exercises to help you feel a little more relaxed. If you’re at work, maybe reach out to a colleague and ask if they want to go for a cup of tea or if you work from home, go for a short walk and get some fresh air.

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