The information overload of the constant news cycle is ratcheting up stress levels for 56% of us. Thankfully, experts promise you can stay informed—and sane!— with a few simple tactics. Keep reading for six expert tips on how you to dial down the noise and brighten your views.
Make your own rules
It can be hard to know when the news is enriching our lives—and when it’s harming our mental health. “It’s completely subjective,” confirms Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project ($9.59) and Outer Order, Inner Calm ($9.89). To determine what most affects you, pay attention to your news consumption over the course of a day. If scanning headlines in the morning makes you agitated before you’ve even had coffee, or watching news at night causes you to lose sleep, make some adjustments. And be aware that your sensitivity may change over time. “I used to listen to news radio all night,” says Rubin. “That wouldn’t work for who I am today.”
Swap screens for paper
Our response to news may be highly personal, but there is one strategy experts agree on: To reduce anxiety, choose paper over screens. “An article in print has a beginning, a middle and an end,” explains Rubin. “Online media, on the other hand, is on a constant loop. I call it the ‘potato chips of knowledge’ because you can’t read just one. You keep chasing it and consuming more and more.” Therapist Steven Stosny, Ph.D., the founder of CompassionPower.com and the author of nine books, including Empowered Love ($23.56), who coined the term “headline stress disorder,” agrees: “Electronic media is designed to hijack our attention, while newspapers let us decide when we’ll ‘tune in,’ giving us control and reducing our stress.”
When we’re tired, it can be tempting to click through shorter news stories or lists of bullet points. But reading a longer piece can actually reduce anxiety. Why? “Longer exposure to a topic, even a difficult one, allows the brain to integrate more context,” explains psychologist Lizabeth Roemer, Ph.D, the co-author of the anxiety workbook Worry Less, Live More ($15.81, Amazon). “An in-depth piece is likelier to include moments of hope and historical context that go beyond the frightening headline.”
Find good news
Despite our best attempts to control the flow of bad news into our lives, distressing stories will inevitably break through. “This is when we have to fight feelings of powerlessness with acts that empower us,” says Stosny. “Volunteer, check on an elderly neighbor, share a good news story with friends… then focus on your efforts, not the outcome.” Adds Roemer: “Sometimes it’s just a matter of saying, ‘I’m going to go out into the world and be kind.’”
Listen to what you love
A feel-good news phenomenon that’s informative and stressfree: podcasts! “They’re calming and free, so you can sample lots of them,” reveals Rubin. “When you find a podcast you love, it’s like a new world opens up.” Think of it as current affairs with a side of self-care.
You come first
“Conscientious people often worry that they’re being irresponsible if they aren’t totally up-to-date on the topics that matter to them,” explains Roemer. If this sounds like you, forgive yourself for stepping back and build up your emotional resources so you can connect with news without becoming overwhelmed, she says. The best ways to fortify your spirit? “Breathe deeply, eat something delicious mindfully and take extra time to play with your pets or tend your garden.”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.