Thirty years ago, world news was something you would have delivered to you once a day, perhaps twice if you watched a nightly news show. Fast forward to today and our phones, laptops and tablets beam this information directly into our hands in real-time. In fact, you’re probably reading this on your phone right now. They are amazing devices, but they are certainly not without their drawbacks.
And it’s not just the real news that can be stress-inducing. In today’s commercialised world, we are subjected to an endless list of publications and journalists that rely on our ‘clicks’ to generate revenue. In some cases, this results in high-quality competitive journalism to draw an audience for the right reasons. It also opens the door to ‘clickbait’ – provocative or unbelievable headlines designed to elicit a response, good and bad – which can sometimes be quite alarming.
So, if you find that the oversaturation of news is causing you distress, or perhaps if you’ve felt a little different over the last few weeks and can’t quite put your finger on what it is, don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’ve compiled some suggestions about how to help combat media anxiety and the emotional distress that news binging can cause.
Recognise the signs
For anyone who hasn’t experienced high levels of anxiety before, the physical symptoms can be both surprising and worrying, but it is important to remember that they are very common. As well as the feelings of depression and worry that are associated with anxiety, physical symptoms can include: headaches; muscle aches, upset stomach, heart palpitations and increased fatigue.
Due to the nature of anxiety, it is easy to associate these symptoms with other conditions which can, in turn, further the impact of any emotional distress. This is an entirely new situation for everyone, and it is normal to feel worried about what’s to come. Talking about how you feel with friends and family can really help and if you feel you need some professional support consider speaking to your doctor or seeking support through other professional means, such as online therapy.
We all use our phones and computers on a constant basis these days. If you’ve ever tried to avoid a Game of Thrones spoiler on social media then you will know just how difficult it is to keep some information out of your sight. Although we get so much enjoyment and enrichment from our technology, taking a step back and living in the moment can really help.
Turn the TV off, put your phone out of sight, close your laptop and enjoy a bath, music or a book. Sometimes our brains need time to digest the information they have already received before taking in more. If this seems like too much change, try leaving your phone in the kitchen when you go to bed for the night and allow yourself time to fully shut down before falling asleep. There’s no news at 11pm that can’t wait until morning.
Communicate your choices
Ironically, with lock-down we are all making more of an effort to keep in touch with friends and family, albeit via video calls. And all anyone wants to talk about is the news. If you have decided to step back from tracking the news agenda, then it’s ok to communicate this to friends and family. Simply send a message letting them know you’d rather not talk about it and if it comes up on a call, politely change the subject to something more positive for you.
Self-care isn’t selfish
There is no better time than right now to focus on ourselves. With most of us having more time than ever on our hands, it can feel as if we need to constantly keep ourselves busy to have purpose. It’s important to remember that we are not machines and that our minds and bodies need rest from time to time.
With the beautiful weather we are currently enjoying, take time to sit in the garden and read that book you’ve been meaning to get around to. Wake up each morning with a healthy breakfast and start your day by meditating or working on your yoga skills. Carve out self-care windows in your day to check in with how you are feeling and recharge your batteries, emotionally and physically.
As well as trying out one of the above activities, it’s important that, if you’re struggling to manage anxiety or feelings of worry, you seek support. Online therapy can provide you with the guidance and advice you need to manage your feelings, all from the comfort of your own home. Remember, we’re all in this together.