Who’s ready to chuck their phone into the sea and never read another media alert again?
That solution may be a bit dramatic, but news fatigue is real ― and it’s likely wrecking your well-being. Research shows constant exposure to negative news can affect your mental health over time. Data published in 2016 found a majority of Americans are stressed over the future of the nation. Gyms are even banning cable news because it’s taking a toll on people.
However, as nice as avoiding the news until the end of time sounds, it’s also incredibly unrealistic. It’s smart to stay in touch with what’s happening. Plus, people are personally living out news stories in their daily lives as they face sexism, racism, terrorism, health care issues and weather-related disasters.
So, how can you keep in touch with current events while still protecting your mental health? Below are some expert-backed suggestions for staying informed while keeping stress at bay:
Get strategic about your alerts
It’s a good idea to read different news sources to get a well-rounded picture of the world. However, that could mean multiple news alerts on your phone. The barrage of notifications not only can get overwhelming, it’s essentially setting you up for on-demand stress.
“When it comes to stress, it’s important to determine what is in your personal control and what is not within your control, and what action needs to be taken and what the appropriate action is,” said Dr. Renee Binder, past president of the American Psychiatric Association and a psychiatry professor at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine.
In some cases, taking action might mean limiting what you expose yourself to on a regular basis. Consider doing a cleanup of your notifications by enabling only what you feel is necessary. Binder told HuffPost that turning to other resources ― like enabling local county alerts rather than national news alerts ― may also be a good workaround.
“For example, there’s been a lot of weather problems in California and on the East Coast, so it is important to get information in whichever way you can get it,” Binder explained. You don’t want to avoid negative news reports that are tied to your immediate safety, such as updates on wildfires, hurricanes and mudslides.
Practice some simple breathing exercises
It might sound new age-y or cheesy, but it works in the moment. Even experts swear by this technique when they’re feeling overwhelmed listening to negative media reports.
“I put my feet flat on the floor, relax my shoulders, close my eyes, smile and take a long, slow deep breath,” Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, previously told HuffPost. “You can do this just about anywhere, and it always feels good.”
Volunteer in your community or speak out about a cause
Taking action to relieve anxiety, as Binder recommended, can also take the form of giving back. Volunteering for an organization you care about or speaking up for a meaningful cause on social media may help alleviate some of that stress. Bonus: Research shows altruism can improve your mood.
Use other stress-relief techniques
Managing anxiety actively takes work; it’s important to engage in other stress-relief methods regardless of whether you’re checking your news apps. Working out, mindfulness and hanging out with loved ones are all known to reduce anxiety, Binder said. Looking for more? Try one of these stress-busting techniques.
Participate in the political process
Elections matter. If political current affairs ― and the news surrounding them ― are causing you stress, make a conscious effort to vote and get active in your own political party, Binder suggested.
“When it comes to political stress, people feel much better when they feel like they can do something about it,” Binder said.
Talk to a professional about how you’re feeling
Therapy isn’t just a tool for serious mental health conditions. Talking to an expert about issues that cause you excessive stress can be incredibly beneficial ― especially if it’s interfering with your everyday life, Binder explained.
“When you find that you’re not just upset about what’s happening, but you’re all of a sudden losing weight or losing sleep ... this can signal something a little bit more serious and it might be worthwhile to talk to someone about it and get professional help,” she said.
Therapy can be pretty pricey, which often deters people from trying it in the first place. Here are some options for making it a little more affordable.
If all else fails, take a small break
“We have never experienced a time like this in human history, a time where there is no respite from distressing stories and terrifying world events,” Kathryn Stamoulis, a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in women’s issues, previously told HuffPost. “We must self-protect, and the only way to do so is to disconnect from time to time.”
In other words, you’re not a robot. Sometimes the only solution is to unplug for a little while before diving back in. Although, tossing every device into a large body of water and never looking back does sound kind of cathartic.