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Over the past year and a half, the news cycle has been inundated with coronavirus headlines. These include increasing cases and changing lockdown restrictions. While these stories are crucial to public understanding of the coronavirus, Americans already feel the effects of news on their mental health.

A Digital Third Coast survey found that 68 percent of respondents felt anxious about the news during the pandemic. Between 65 percent and 67 percent of respondents felt overwhelmed by the news, respectively. 54 percent of respondents even stated that they were cutting down on news consumption to avoid these feelings.

Many people feel anxious about their loved ones and worry about the economy. While it is understandable to keep up with the latest health information, excessive news consumption can lead to stress. To maintain your mental health, you must strike a healthy balance between being informed and reading every article in your newsfeed.

Your Health and the News

Most media outlets report on stories that will shock or draw viewers and readers, due to the sensational nature of the 24-hour news cycle. Exposition to negative or stressful news leads to hormone liberation, such as cortisol. And recurrent stress exposure can harm our mental and physical health.

Negative news can cause symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. The National Center of Biotechnology Information found that watching television news for just 14 minutes led to an increase in the development of anxiety and sadness. 

Managing Your News Consumption

Moderation is the key to your mental and physical well-being. These are some tips to limit your news consumption and manage headline stress.

Set time limits

You can set aside time each morning to check your newsfeed, or read the news. Give yourself a time limit if you feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of headlines. After your time is up, turn off your smartphone and spend time with friends and family so you can relax and find balance in your life.

You can create a routine that will allow you to keep up with the most important news without going down rabbit holes on news sites. To limit the number of headlines that you see throughout the day, you might also want to change your notifications in your news apps so that you have to seek news out instead of being notified about it.

Keep it simple

It can be tempting to read as much news as you would like, doing this you may end up reading unreliable information. Reading social media often causes more frustration, as you will undoubtedly read the comments. Trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help you gather the information you need to protect yourself and your family. You can then move on to your day once you have this information. If you already have the most important information, there is no reason to read and stress yourself out.

Get Rid of Anxiety-Provoking News

Your social media feed can sometimes be a great source of information, but it can also cause more anxiety and stress. Consider unfollowing people who bombard your social media feed with offensive content, sharing disturbing links, or posting offensive information. To muffle certain words and phrases, you can adjust your settings across social media platforms and news curation apps.

Lay Off News Before Bed 

Catching up on the news before bed might seem like a good idea, but it can leave you riddled with anxiety. You’ll lay awake in bed thinking of the number of Covid-19 cases in your town, or worrying about the war in a far-off place. Your body may also be affected by the blue light from your electronic device screens. Avoid the news at least one hour before bed to protect your sleep. You might turn off notifications and put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” while you sleep.

Find Good News

Although it might seem that everything is negative these days, there are still positive and uplifting stories being shared by outlets. You can check out social media accounts such as Some Good News. You might start a text chain with family and friends to share positive stories you find. This can offset some of the more troubling news on your regular news sites.

Do Something for Yourself

You may feel anxious or uncertain about your future after reading about the pandemic. You can avoid becoming overwhelmed by these thoughts and spiraling into despair by immediately engaging in a positive activity. Take a walk, call someone, meditate, pray, or tune in to a TV show. You can do something to distract from the pandemic. These healthy distractions will help you stay present at the moment.

If you feel anxious or stressed more often than is normal, contact your primary care provider.

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