Whether we’re commuting, sitting on the couch, even lying in bed – constant exposure to the 24-7 news cycle is available at our fingertips. While this can be a good thing – it’s important to stay informed – it can also have consequences for our mental health. Research has found that participants who watched the negative news showed increases in both anxiety and sadness, as well an increased tendency to catastrophize personal worries. More recently, the World Health Organisation has highlighted that constant news updates reporting negative information can lead to anxiety and distress.
So how do we strike a balance? How do we know individually how much news is enough for us and when we should put the screens away? We asked our Co-Founder, Michael Inglis for guidance.
1. Check in with your emotions
To begin, Michael says that experiencing distress after reading negative news is a completely normal response, however, it’s about finding your individual balance – the point where you’ve read enough to stay informed, but are also caring for your mental health and wellbeing, “we always feel that knowledge is more and sometimes it is, but we have to know what the limit point is”.
He suggests that one way to navigate this is to check in with yourself by using the simple method of asking yourself how distressed you are feeling on a scale of 1 -10.
As you engage, check in with yourself, “How am I feeling right now? What’s my distress scale? Am I beyond my threshold?” If you are reaching a higher point on the scale, it may be time to step away from the screens for a while.
2. Turn your emotion toward an act of hope
Once we’re aware of how we’re feeling, what we choose to do with that response is also important. We’re likely unable to influence events occurring on a global or national scale, but we can find ways to turn our reactions into hope through our actions. Michael recommends asking yourself,
Perhaps you know someone who is personally connected to this news in one way or another and you can extend your empathy by allowing them space to share their feelings and experience, asking them what they need in this moment, and sharing your care for them and their community.
On a final note, Michael raises the importance of having empathy with others in your life if they are reacting differently to you, perhaps they are experiencing more or less distress than you are,
If you’d like to further explore managing news and your emotions, here are some additional resources we have found helpful. Our online library also has several pieces that may help you find grounding and remain connected to yourself and others as we experience the collective grief of events outside our control.
If you require urgent mental health assistance please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or use their Online Chat service www.lifeline.org.au.