Feeling Stressed About the News? Experts Share Tools to Help You Take Care of Yourself
With so much distressing news at our fingertips, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Here, discover empowering ways to stay in the know but also soothe your big heart. While it’s important to keep up with world news, your mental health is important, too.
Show yourself love.
“We’re so saturated with bad news in the media, it’s like we’re a sponge — and a sponge can’t absorb any more until we ring it out,” observes author, speaker, and psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee. In other words, give yourself permission to tune out the news so you can tune into your mental health needs. After we’ve shown ourselves compassion, we can extend it to others. “Place one hand on your heart and the other on your stomach to soothe yourself and send care to those who are suffering in the world — this makes you feel calm and connected.”
Reach out to others.
It’s easy to feel helpless watching tragedies from the sidelines. But just one small act of empathy increases our agency, the empowering feeling that we’re doing good, says award-winning psychologist Tracy Packiam Alloway. This kindness doesn’t even need to be tied to what you see on the news. “Simply giving a loved one a call to tell them you’re thinking of them, for example, restores your sense of control, lifting you up.”
Listen to you.
Even when we know how it affects us, it can be hard to curb “doom scrolling” because it’s downright addictive. “The brain chemical dopamine motivates us to keep checking the latest updates,” says Dodgen-Magee. To stop your brain from being hijacked, pinpoint the time of day when you’re most resilient, adds expert Allison Eden, PhD, associate professor in communication at Michigan State University. “I check news in the morning because I’m so busy then, it’s easier to give myself a clear limit — say, 10 minutes — and move on. Listen to yourself to learn when you feel strongest.”
Have more fun online.
After you’ve shifted away from online habits that dampen your mood, lift your spirits by finding ways to positively interact with the web, urges Dodgen-Magee. “Anything from taking your book club online to signing up for a cooking class fosters connections,” she says. “It’s not all or nothing — we just have to also curate positive information that will enhance our lives.”
Tip: Try playing our online puzzles with a friend!
Savor small escapes.
When Dodgen-Magee asks clients to tally how many times per day they check media sites, they’re often shocked to discover the number reaching 100. But when asked how many joyful activities they do, that number dwindles to single digits. That’s why it’s so important to give yourself small escapes, like listening to your favorite song or dancing in your kitchen, she encourages. “You’re not a bad person because you aren’t connected 24/7 — you’re human.”
Watch TV at this time.
While watching the news too close to bedtime dials up our adrenaline levels, losing ourselves in a show that tells a story about one and a half hours before hitting the hay improves sleep quality, reveals Eden. “But our research shows that benefit gets wiped away if you start beating yourself up about it,” she says. “Just let yourself escape without feeling guilty. Narrative stories, like ‘Bridgerton,’ rather than suspenseful shows let you truly relax — give yourself this joy.”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.