Be Informed in a Healthy Way

Would You Like to Hear the Bad News or Bad News First?

Everyone likes to be informed. It keeps us aware of what’s happening in the world and lets us discuss current issues with others. However, just as the old proverb assures us, sometimes having no news is good for us. But we have to work at it in an age where we are bombarded with real-time updates from around the world.  

In 2020, we have faced disaster after disaster with seemingly no end in sight. Even if we simply want to watch a yoga video on YouTube we’re met with ads about politics or public health that remind us the world is not well. In a time we must use technology to rely on our connection with others, sometimes the healthiest thing we can do is disconnect from digital media entirely.

How do we stay informed without being sucked into sensational reporting? 

Finding a healthy balance of media use can help restore our sleep hygiene and alleviate the toll on physical, emotional, and mental health. You might find yourself greatly fatigued, worried, and unable to concentrate or sleep. A study found that the negative effects from watching the news occur after less than 15 minutes of exposure. However, during a time where staying informed is a key part of being responsible-for public and personal health-how do we do this in a healthy way?

  • LIMIT MEDIA USE. Start by tracking your media use using an app like RescueTime, or use Screen Time included on iOS to monitor and limit app use. Then actually do something to reduce it. Set a timer to limit yourself to ten minutes of social media use or use browser extensions to force you off select websites after a period of time. Check out https://www.pcmag.com/how-to/5-ways-to-cut-back-on-social-media for more ideas. 
    • Take it a step further and quit as many social media networks as you can. 
  • TURN OFF ELECTRONICS. Yes, really. Power off your phone and laptop completely every night. 99% of the time, you don’t need to be reached while you’re sleeping. Determine a digital sabbath rule where you stop using Internet for a period of time each week or day. 
  • CONSUME WISELY. Logan Jones, PsyD points out that much of today’s reporting is focused on keeping people addicted to the news cycle, rather than plain reporting. News outlets favor disaster reporting because it causes people to panic and check on the report more than they would on any positive news. 
    • Decide which news you are seeking. If you want to check coronavirus updates, go to the CDC or WHO websites. If you want to watch a televised briefing, watch that briefing. Additionally, be sure to rely on credible news outlets. 
    • Another alternative to be informed is asking for a summary from close friends or family. Take turns with them on checking the news and informing each other of any major updates. 

Limit the amount of mental energy you use to worry.

  • SCHEDULE “WORRY TIME.” The reality is your mind and body may be poised to fight off this pandemic (think “fight-or-flight” responses) but in reality all you can do is be at home. After your set worry time is over, give yourself time to do a relaxing activity so your brain can prepare for bed. 
  • PRACTICE MINDFULNESS. There are countless books, blogs, and podcasts that go in-depth on practicing mindfulness. But you can start small. Dim the lights and avoid screens an hour before bedtime. Focus on your breathing as you fall asleep. Check out https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/ for more tips on getting started. 
  • TURN OFF THE NEWS. Limit your intended consumption, then turn it off. Don’t leave it on as background noise. Haley Neidich, LCSW, recommends less than 30 minutes per day of social media and news exposure combined. 

What happens next? Try any (or all) of the above suggestions for a week. Check in with yourself and decide what’s working and what needs tweaking. If symptoms of anxiety or depression happen regularly, consider asking someone to filter the news for you and let you know of important updates.

If things like stress, anxiety, and eating or sleeping problems don’t improve adequately, call us at (217) 203-2008 or email us. We will be able to help you make those necessary life adjustments so you can go back to living your day-to-day. 

Resources:

https://www.pcmag.com/how-to/5-ways-to-cut-back-on-social-media

https://www.verywellmind.com/is-watching-the-news-bad-for-mental-health-4802320 

https://www.mindful.org/walk-this-way/