News anxiety: How to keep your head when you read the news

In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, it’s increasingly difficult to consume the current news without feeling a degree of stress. Many of us are left with an overwhelming air of doom and despair when attempting to stay informed.

The media we consume each day affects our thinking, behaviour, and emotions. Read on for useful anxiety-reducing tactics to help you reframe your relationship with the news, reduce stress and stay informed without it affecting your mental wellbeing.

Understand the background agenda

Every news outlet is owned, funded, and run by people with their own biases and opinions. Behind every story we read, there’s a whole other political agenda that we may be unaware of.

In the UK, two billionaires control two-thirds of the UK press. Rupert Murdoch and Lord Rothermere own the majority of UK newspapers, including The Daily Mail, The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun.

Many of us tend to rely on a few select sites or papers as our go-to news sources. Do some research and learn more about who is behind them and any political affiliations they may have. This extra layer of awareness might help to lessen your anxiety and create some helpful emotional distance.

Focus on local news

While it’s important to stay abreast of what is happening in the world, global news can lead to more anxiety as we inevitably feel powerless in the face of widespread unrest.

Remedy this and reclaim a sense of purpose and possibility by focusing on local issues.

Although reading news stories occurring within your community might still cause you to feel anxious, you might find a way to do some good and restore a sense of power by getting involved in a local initiative.

Limit the time you spend consuming the news

Our smartphones are designed to be hard to put down. With well-devised use of colours, sounds, and vibrations, the technology purposely keeps us engaged.

No surprise then that news and social media apps are designed to pull you in and keep you scrolling. If you’re tired of succumbing to endless scrolling, try installing a time-limiting app on your phone.

Moment and Off time both limit the time you spend on certain applications, including news apps and social media. By setting boundaries around how long you spend on news apps, you can regain a sense of control over how and when you consume the news.

By reclaiming control and making a conscious effort to limit your access to the news, you can spend more time focusing on those things that matter and enjoy more quality time with your family and friends, concentrating on work, and looking after your mental and physical health.

Resist algorithms and reclaim control of the news you see

According to the YouGov news-consumption tracker, as of December 2021, 24% of Brits get their news from social media, and 41% get theirs from newspaper websites.

If you rely on either of these sources for your news, these sites will target you with stories or posts they think you want to see.

Every time you click on a news story, you feed data into the site’s algorithm, which will then use the data to suggest other stories with similar content. If it seems like a certain issue is all-consuming and increasing your anxiety, it’s probably because your phone or computer is showing you more and more content about that issue.

To combat this, it’s a good idea to reject additional cookies on news sites. Remember, your home page suggestions are largely determined by your previous activity.

Widen your view of current issues by varying the news sources you read. By reading more than one news site, you’re less likely to have an unhealthy focus on one website, app, or point of view.

Combat stress by spending time with loved ones

Focusing on what’s real in your life and what can bring you joy is especially important in today’s chaotic world.

The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us of those we hold most dear, and if the news is keeping you up at night, don’t be afraid to turn to family and friends for support. Reconnecting with those who accept and understand you could relieve stress. As you talk, you may even find that others share your views about the state of the world and help you feel less alone.

And finally…

If you feel that anxiety is affecting your life, seek professional help. Speak to your family doctor or seek help from Mind, a UK charity organisation who provide mental health advice and support.

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