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  • Writer's pictureBirch Cooper

Reducing News Related Anxiety

Birch Cooper, LMHC

Based on material previously posted by Birch Cooper, MA, LMHC

War, a polarized election, flooding, wildfires, random acts of violence and the potential threat of artificial intelligence. These are just a sample of the distressing news articles that could make anyone feel momentarily anxious.

Some anxiety can be a good thing. It heightens our awareness and can put us in a proactive, problem-solving mindset. However, a perpetual state of worry can override positive emotions as well as deplete our cognitive resources and energy. Leaving those who experience persistent anxiety feeling overwhelmed, drained and powerless. 

We live in a world with minute-by-minute news updates where information on world events is accessible at any time by glancing at our smartphones. Moreover, platforms mix alarmist news stories with the social updates of our friends and family, reinforcing the illusion that the dangers of the world are close and personally threatening. 

For many the first step to overcoming persistent news related anxiety is attempting change so I have included strategies that can help lessen the impact negative news has on your well-being.

Hold off on the 'breaking news' - When tragedy or disaster strikes, stories can be so compelling that we end up tuning in for hours or constantly checking-in for updates. Yet, this is the time when it can be beneficial to tune out. When news first breaks it is often before all the facts are in. This can lead to extended broadcasts of speculation or news articles with incorrect or misleading information. Returning to news stories when all of the facts have come to light can avoid prolonged anxiety and increased stress levels.

Radical acceptance - It is crucial to note radical acceptance does not involve agreeing with or condoning any aspect of a given situation. One must only accept that it is real. For certain news stories, it is also useful to accept what is out of our control. While in the case of other stories there may be something you can do. 

Take constructive 'real world' action - Staying informed then responding, sharing or liking can be a part of raising awareness and create a feeling of solidarity. Nonetheless, it is essential not to let those behaviors take the place of real, live, civic engagement. Having direct interaction with like-minded people in-person and taking collective action will help mitigate feelings of helplessness. It can be useful to explore opportunities in your area then follow through offline in ways that feel appropriate to your values.

Unplugging - While it may not be beneficial to completely ignore the news it can be helpful to take breaks from the constant coverage. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the news, you may want to disconnect from all news outlets for a period of time. This may manifest as an afternoon, a news-free day of the week or a "news vacation" lasting more than one day. If you suffer from news related anxiety try unplugging at least two hours before bed.

Take in the positive - It is important to remember there are also good things happening in the world. Starting the day with positive stories can better your mood and help combat feelings of fear and pessimism. Listening to podcasts that inspire or relax you can have a similar effect. The Good News Network is an excellent source of positive and encouraging stories. I will close out the post with a sample of headlines from the site. Perhaps just reading them will provide some relief. 

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