Limiting News Intake

Why limiting news consumption is one of the best things you can do for your mental health

Tori Thorp, Co-editor in chief

   In the past weeks, the term “Breaking News” has been in almost every headline we look at. A case here, a case there, the Coronavirus is taking over the country and our newsfeed. The negative effects of these alarming headlines on our mental health are extensive, and limiting the intake of news is the best thing you can do for yourself during quarantine. 

     A study done by The British Psychological Society concluded that news has serious negative impacts on a person’s brain. The more news we consume, the more anxiety we have about our futures and the future of the country. It’s so easy to get sucked into the headlines that we forget to stop and think about our own mental health. The study even found that consuming negative news can lead to anxiety about things that aren’t even related to the subject of the article or program

     In addition to general distress, a more news-specific term, “Headline Stress Disorder”, commonly develops as a result of too much news intake. Doctor Steven Stosny, a therapist that specializes in anger and resentment, first coined this term during the 2016 election. In his article for the Washington Post, Stosny said, “For many people, continual alerts from news sources, blogs, social media and alternative facts feel like missile explosions in a siege without end.”

      These so-called “missile explosions” can hurt not only our minds, but our bodies as well. Headline Stress Disorder causes the body to release a chemical called glucocorticoid, or cortisol in excessive amounts. This release of cortisol can lead to problems such as nervousness, infections, arthritis, and even stunted growth of hair, nails, and skin cells. We need to identify and take action on these symptoms. Stress can seriously harm a person’s body and mind, and by limiting the amount of news we read and watch, these symptoms can be reduced, leading to a happier and healthier lifestyle. 

Finding the balance

     So where can a balance be found between staying in the loop and blissful ignorance? In an over the phone interview with a local therapist who wishes to remain anonymous for personal reasons, they explained that it really depends on the individual. Everyone has a different level of comfort reading the news, and some are more passive than others. If someone was already prone to anxiety, the therapist said, they would be continuing that pattern during the pandemic and need to limit their news intake more than those who don’t have existing anxiety. 

     Evaluate the way that you think and take in news. Are you someone that gets easily stressed by scrolling through headlines, or can you endure reading all the latest news before it starts to exhaust you? Next time you find yourself reading the latest stories, pay attention to at what point it starts to take a toll on the way you feel and think, and make adjustments based on your personal limit.

     Now, breaking the habit of opening your news app every few minutes is easier said than done, but the local therapist recommends that you schedule something else during the time that you would usually sit down and scroll through the news. If you catch yourself about to open your favorite news app, you’ll be more likely to set it down if you have something else scheduled to do. Pick something you love to do that you’ll be happy to set down the news in order to do, and it makes it less of a task. 

     If you have the symptoms of Headline Stress Disorder, or you just have general anxiety surrounding the virus and quarantine, please reach out. The local therapist recommended you go to psychologytoday.com and type in your zip code, the site will direct you to a therapist in your area that you can contact over email and set up a virtual appointment with. The first step to breaking your habit is talking about it. Whether it’s with a therapist or just writing it down in your journal, it’s good to think about how you’re feeling during this time and set restrictions around the amount of news you consume. Now more than ever we need to take care of our mental health, and limiting your news intake may be the best option for you during a time when the headlines seem nothing but stressful.