As we push through another year of the global coronavirus crisis, there’s no doubt that the devastating effects of the pandemic have taken a collective toll on our mental health.
Staying informed about COVID-19 is critical, but it can also be triggering. Between new variants like omicron cropping up and thousands of people getting sick each day, the all-encompassing stress of the “new normal” we’ve been navigating can be hard to take in.
“After two years of chronic stress and a universal trauma, most people are beyond their capacity to take on any more stressors,” Neha Chaudhary, the chief medical officer of BeMe Health, told HuffPost. “If you’re feeling overwhelmed by COVID-19 news, just know you’re not alone.”
So what can you do to stay up-to-date about the latest COVID news, but feel less mentally drained? We asked a few medical experts to share their advice. Here’s what they had to say.
Prioritize protocols in your local community.
With COVID-19 dominating the news cycle, it may seem scary to think about the future of the pandemic. But ultimately, the global nature of this health threat is not within your control. One thing you can do is stay informed about protocols in your local community and do your part to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“Pay attention to public health guidelines in your area, such as getting vaccinated and boosted and wearing masks for protection,” Sharon Chekijian, an emergency medicine physician at Yale Medicine, told HuffPost.
Additionally, keeping tabs on the levels of spread in your community will help guide the right decisions for you and your family.
“Living life in this limbo of outbreaks, variants, exposures and illness can feel overwhelming as we are constantly needing to evaluate risk, assess our circumstances, and make changes in our daily lives,” said Madeline Lucas, a therapist and clinical content manager at Real, a digital mental health and therapy platform.
Don’t forget to check in with yourself and prioritize your well-being while consuming all this information. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take a break to redirect your energy elsewhere by taking a walk or calling a friend, Lucas said.
“If you’re feeling overwhelmed by COVID-19 news, just know you’re not alone.”
Be mindful of your general COVID news exposure.
In addition to staying plugged in to your local guidelines, it may be helpful to learn other key pieces of information, such as school closure policies, travel guidance and testing recommendations. This information can help you make decisions you’re comfortable with for you and your family’s safety, Chekijian said.
While staying informed, understand that it’s OK to skip or take time off from content you find particularly distressing or triggering. Setting boundaries ahead of time will help limit your exposure to the influx of alarming COVID-related headlines.
“Set aside some time to have parameters around your emotional capacity for news content,” said Naiylah Warren, a therapist and clinical content manager at Real. “Maybe that means spending only 20 minutes watching the news on television or reading only two articles a day.”
Reserve some space for focusing on the positive.
It’s common for news stories to focus on the disastrous impact of the pandemic, which can incite fear and helplessness. While it’s important to be aware of the reality of everything going on, it might help to be more selective about your media consumption and to surround yourself with uplifting, solution-based stories that bring you joy. The World Health Organization recommends focusing on stories of recovery to promote positivity and hopefulness.
Finding a balance between staying informed and not feeling overwhelmed by the news cycle may be difficult, but things like setting boundaries and taking breaks can make a tremendous impact on your mental health and well-being for the better.