How to Cope With the Never-Ending News Cycle

How to Cope With the Never-Ending News Cycle Tips for Managing Your News Consumption and Related Emotions

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I don’t know about you, but it seems like every time I pick up a newspaper, log onto social media, or watch the news, I am struck by how grim a picture the media paints regarding societal and global interactions. Research shows that the news is heavily skewed in a negative light because that is what gets views. At the same time, when we watch news that we view as more negative, we tend to experience an increase in negative emotions and a decrease in positive emotions (de Hoog & Verboon, 2020). 

In addition to this never-ending stream of news, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to be able to tell what news is reputable and what is the spreading of misinformation (Wenzel, 2019). This negative news combined with ambiguity leaves many of us feeling like we are walking a tightrope of wanting to make sure that we are well-informed and knowledgeable about current affairs, while also trying to maintain mental health and hope for the future. The constant news of violence, political arguments, world events, and much more can really take its toll on our overall well-being. Many of us are left feeling stuck and helpless as a result. For those with existing mental health struggles like generalized anxiety, major depressive disorder, or histories of trauma, this cycle can exacerbate symptoms.

There are ways to cope with general stress that are also helpful for this type of situation, but there may also be ways to specifically cope with the constant negative news cycle. Below are 7 tips for managing whatever emotions arise for you in these situations. 

Tip #1: Allow yourself to feel the feelings

It is likely that you are going to feel a whole range of emotions regarding news that emerges. It can be tempting to numb out, ignore, or dampen any emotions that come up, since we have other things to accomplish. However, in the long run, these strategies can backfire and lead to the emotions emerging in unexpected ways in the future. For example, if we continuously ignore something from the news that makes us angry, we might later take our anger out on loved ones when we don’t mean to. Not to mention, it is exhausting to go from super activated to feeling numb on a regular but unpredictable basis. Therefore, allow yourself time to feel what comes from the news. Whether you allow yourself time each time you are presented with the news or dedicate time and space to reflect and emote, it is important to experience your emotions. 

Tip #2: Connect with others

Many times, we are consuming media by ourselves, which can contribute to feelings of isolation or confusion and can lead us down a rabbit hole of twisty thinking. To help combat these, feel free to talk about what you see on the news with other people in your life. Of course, make sure that you do this in appropriate spaces (political discussions are not always appropriate in certain work contexts, for example) and in a way that doesn’t further compound mental health issues. However, talking about the news in moderation tends to help us make sense of difficult or scary situations, see others’ viewpoints on similar topics, and process our feelings. It is constructive to talk about how news stories impact us or make us feel rather than starting debates (which can tend to make things worse). 

Even if you don’t talk about the news itself, finding ways to stay socially connected can be very important for maintaining positive physical and mental health. Being around other people who bring you joy has a way of lessening the power that all the big and heavy stuff has over our thought processes. 

Related: Why Group Socializing is Great for Your Health

Tip #3: Limit exposure

As we mentioned in this article, there are many benefits of walking away from media sources entirely for predetermined periods of time (one hour, day, or week, for example). However, even if you aren’t cutting out your media exposure entirely, there are some ways to limit your exposure to the seemingly never ending negative news cycle. 

I like to remind myself and clients that you don’t have to read articles. Even if you are scrolling and see a headline that your brain tells you you “should” read, you can choose not to in that moment. You can either come back to it at a later time when you are mentally prepared or you can simply not read it at all. Both of these options help you to feel more in control over what and how you are consuming the media. This can be particularly helpful for people in marginalized communities who are constantly barraged with reminders that their literal safety or existence is in question. 

Another option is to set a media curfew for yourself. This is exactly what it sounds like: you determine a time after which you cut yourself off from engaging with news and/or media. Anything you “miss” will be there when you are ready to come back for it. This is particularly helpful if you have any sort of sleeping problems, as we know that media consumption can have detrimental impacts on our sleep quality and quantity (Exelmans & Van den Bulck, 2019). 

Finally, you could also simply limit your use of media consumption on a given day. We do this with children all the time by limiting them to a certain amount of screen time per day based on recommendations from trusted organizations. However, as adults we have more autonomy in our media consumption choices and tend to view media consumption as a necessary part of life. However, where possible, we can limit ourselves. Many phones have applications or settings that help you keep track of your time spent on various platforms. You can set goals to limit yourself to a certain number of minutes/hours per day of news, media, etc. Then, when you meet your limit, you’re done for the day! This requires discipline, but has been rewarding for many people I’ve worked with.

Tip #4: Balance with positive activities

As we have mentioned many times here at Fitness Blender, life is all about balance. While I am certainly not saying to cut out media and news sources altogether from your life, it is important to add things into your life that help to offset or balance any potential effects that the media has on your physical or mental health. 

Therefore, figure out what things make you feel the opposite of how the media cycle makes you feel and incorporate that into your days/weeks. For example, if you tend to feel scared and helpless after watching or reading the news, implement activities that make you feel empowered and inspired. Some great options include:

Related: Practical Tips for Cultivating Balance in Daily Life

Tip #5: Keep perspective

Any time I am feeling strong emotions about anything, I tend to examine the mindset I am currently living in and whether or not it is serving me. So, when it comes to media or news sources, it can be easy to buy into and get sucked into particular narratives, particularly when it is coming from the sources we deem “trustworthy.” However, it is important to keep in mind that the media makes money from sensationalizing and getting views. The more we consume negative media, the more we will see negative media (and likely in more and more extreme forms). Also, the news sources seem to capitalize on their stories being deemed “truth.” Just because something is true, doesn’t mean we have to pay attention to it 100% of the time. It really seems to be a never ending cycle. Therefore, finding ways to put the news sources into perspective and/or avoiding the sources that sensationalize events can help to reduce how much we see. 

Tip #6: Increase your media literacy skills

Research shows that a majority of adults (across all income levels, levels of education, racial and gender identities) do not possess media literacy skills, or the ability to understand, analyze, and evaluate the messages that exist within a variety of media sources (Rasi et al., 2019). This is a critical skill for all media consumers, so we can keep media/news sources in perspective and do not fall into traps of misinformation. I want to make it clear that I am not necessarily saying that the media or news outlets are the enemy. However, it can be helpful to shift our perspective and recognize that what is written or created is not always Truth (capital T intended). Therefore, practicing taking the time to reflect upon, question, evaluate, and understand media sources can be a helpful tool in coping with media. 

Tip #7: Take action when appropriate

Finally, sometimes the best thing you can do to prevent yourself from feeling frustrated or helpless with national or global affairs is to take action. What that action looks like will vary from situation to situation or location to location. However, calling representatives to make your opinion known, volunteering your time and/or resources to organizations doing important work, and getting involved in policy are all great ways to make a difference in the world and also combat your feelings of helplessness. This may not always be the best option or may not even be an option for everyone (I am aware that devoting time/resources in this way is certainly a privilege), but may be just what someone needs to reduce feelings of powerlessness and contribute to positive change. 

It is likely going to take a multi-pronged approach to be able to manage the impacts that media has on your life. This means trying out different things and seeing what works best for you. However, finding which strategies work best for you can help to promote your mental health in the long run. Please share in the comments below what strategies you all use to cope with the never-ending media cycle!

References

de Hoog, N., & Verboon, P. (2020). Is the news making us unhappy? The influence of daily news exposure on emotional states. British Journal of Psychology, 111, 157-173. 

Exelmans, L., & Van den Bulck, J. (2019). Sleep research: A primer for media scholars. Health Communication, 34(5), 519-528.

Rasi, P., Vuojärvi, H., & Ruokamo, H. (2019). Media literacy education for all ages. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 11(2), 1-19. 

Vijakkhana, N., Wilaisakditipakorn, T., Ruedeekhajorn, K., Pruksananonda, C., & Chonchaiya, W. (2015). Evening media exposure reduces night‐time sleep. Acta Paediatrica, 104(3), 306-312.

Wenzel, A. (2019). To verify or to disagree: Coping with “fake news” and ambiguity. International Journal of Communication, 13, 1977-1995.