Media is one of the most influential factors in our surroundings, it affects the way we think, behave, and feel. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the anxiety surrounding our health and safety, many individuals have started watching the news religiously. While it's great to stay up to date with local news and be aware of global developments, everything becomes detrimental when we go over the average consumption limits.
Maintaining the equilibrium between being informed and being overwhelmed is a tricky path to walk down, notably worse while dealing with such a huge health risk. Overconsuming news can have an adverse impact on our physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.
The Burden of Negative News Crushes Our Well-Being
It can be frustrating to resist the urge to devour negative news. We're hardwired to look for and perceive danger, and that is why securing our fingers on the signal of bad news can make us feel adequately prepared. It may be vital to keep up with the news in order to remain aware, even more so during a global crisis. Negative headlines, on the other hand, can cause people to fall into a pattern of continuous monitoring, which leads to a terrible mood and more worried browsing.
This downward spiral, termed doomscrolling recently, can be harmful to one's mental wellbeing. Even when the media coverage is fairly mundane, researchers have associated the intake of bad news with elevated levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
The emotional burden and negative impact on the mind were supported by research that discovered that individuals watching negative content, as opposed to neutral or positive content, experienced a surge in both anxious and sad emotional states after only 14 minutes of watching news broadcasts and sessions on television. The findings were congruent with theories of worry that encompass bad mood as a possible cause in enabling distressing thoughts, accompanied by an increase in anxious and sad feelings.
7 Ways Bad News Can Lead to Bad Health:
Because of the 24-hour news cycle's spectacular character, most news organizations end up covering crises, catastrophes, or other narratives that are highly probable to startle and attract audiences.
1. Our sympathetic nervous system goes into fight or flight mode when we receive distressing or bad news, producing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Individuals are likely to experience rapid breathing, heart palpitations, and elevated blood pressure. Over time, consistent intake could also lead to chronic blood pressure issues.
2. Doomscrolling can reinforce bad thoughts and feelings. When you're depressed or anxious, it's natural to look for news and information to validate your feelings. It can turn into a vicious spiral that holds you down.
3. It exacerbates mental illness. Existing mental health problems are amplified by this downward spiral of moving to negative headlines. If you have or are predisposed to depression or anxiety, this routine can set off an episode or aggravate symptoms.
4. It can make us feel more panicked, anxious, and worried. Rumination, a serious problem that exacerbates depression, is triggered by browsing through negative media coverage. It can also make you feel anxious, possibly leading to panic attacks.
5. Such habits can make it difficult to get a good night's sleep. Many individuals scroll through their social media feeds before bed, which intensifies anxiety just as you're about to fall asleep. Sleep deprivation magnifies stress and other mental health issues, perpetuating the vicious cycle.
6. Social media sites are renowned for a lack of censorship, which leads the way for all types of posts. While many platforms have begun to take steps to reduce false news posts, they continue to exist. You'll also come across ambiguous assertions made by relatives and friends that may or may not be accurate. It's misleading and distressing to keep reading one post after the other that contradicts it.
7. Repetitive exposure to this stress from news can have a negative influence on our physical and mental health, resulting in symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and trouble concentrating or recalling information.
How Do I Deal with Distressing News?
Being aware and informed is not only essential but also necessary for our health at this time. It's essential to keep in mind, however, that everything is healthy in moderation. Here are 6 methods you can try today:
1. Set a timer on it.
We often leave the TV on or listen to news broadcasts on our mobile while doing chores or random tasks, but it can make us more emotionally drained and burnt out. Rather than listening to the news as background sound, tune in to some music or listen to a podcast! Get more control over the content you consume.
2. Plot a designated 'worry time' on your planner.
This is a technique often used by people who struggle with anxiety disorders. While you browse through the news, take note of anything that makes you feel worried and make a plan to address it. Once your scheduled time to worry is over, remind yourself to keep your concerns aside for the next day, and over time you'll feel positively habituated to handling your worries.
3. Be mindful of your own emotions.
If you're having a bad day or feel like watching bad news could ruin your mood or make you feel worse instead of simply making you informed and aware, skip it for the day.
4. Do your research.
Many news outlets rely on clickbait, drama, and personal sentiments to sell their content. It's important to know that your sources are credible and trustworthy and that the information you're receiving is something you can rely on. You could also get a podcast or newsletter subscription that gives you a daily/weekly news update.
5. Bedtime is to unwind, not intake.
Blue light emissions from screens can severely impact your sleep, making you restless and disturbed. Reading or listening to the news right before you sleep not only makes you more alert and awake but hampers the quality of sleep you receive. It could also lead to insomnia, fatigue, and headaches.
6. If taking away is tough, add more steps to your habits instead.
Consuming news has been a part of the daily routine for most of us. If you're unable to implement all the above-mentioned tips right away, try including a positive and healthy activity right after you read the news. You can take a walk, call a friend, exercise, cook, engage in a hobby, or do anything that makes you feel more grounded and calm.
Now&Me: A Safe Space for You
We often feel overwhelmed, anxious, and worried because of all the information we're being overloaded with through a variety of media outlets. With the ongoing pandemic, the violence in Ukraine, and many other graphic and distressing news pouring in every day, it can be difficult to keep up with and find the motivation to keep going ahead.
It can take some time for us to change our habits and practice the tips stated above. In the meantime, seek out your friends and talk to them when you feel low or distressed because of any news you've read. You can also come and share your concerns with our community. At Now&Me, a free-of-cost platform, we've fostered a peer support network for individuals struggling with mental health challenges to engage, learn, and seek comfort together.
1. What Is Bad News Fatigue?
Bad news fatigue takes over when we grow emotionally drained and exhausted from all the negative news stories we are consuming. Doomscrolling plays a major role in intensifying feelings of fatigue, anxiety, stress, and headaches.
2. How Is Mental Health Affected by The Media?
There are various forms of digital media that can have an adverse effect on our mental well-being. Feeling excluded, alienated, or harassed on social media can make us anxious and depressed. It can also distract us from our reality and make us hyper focused on our virtual life, which contributes to a lack of focus, concentration, and attention problems.
It's also important to note who is consuming media, as minorities and disadvantaged communities have an incredibly different experience with digital platforms (being doxxed, discriminated against, or misrepresented in shows and movies).