Have you been suffering from news overload? If you have felt increasingly anxious, tense, or stressed, you may be one of the many people who have been overwhelmed by exposure to a deluge of news.
While overexposure to the news can leave you feeling drained in the best of times, it can be particularly challenging to stay informed about the pandemic, political events, or issues like climate change. A 2020 paper in Emergency Medicine News noted that information overload could cause fatigue, anxiety, and problems with decision-making.
Luckily, you can take these simple steps to control your exposure.
Use the SIFT Technique
The internet provides us with a way to get our information instantly. Still, the downside has been a profusion of sometimes-unreliable news sites, sensationalized posts on social media, and media bias. One of the consequences of our attention economy is that we’ve lost a significant amount of high-quality information.
So how can you handle this mountain of news and the stress it can cause? Try the SIFT technique, which consists of the following steps:
- Ask yourself if you know the website or source. Don’t accept things at face value. Ask yourself what you want to know and why you’re checking the source.
- Investigate the source. Verify dubious or sensationalist claims by checking multiple sources.
- Find trusted coverage. Get your information from trusted sources, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning news sources, and question anything that sounds like clickbait.
- Trace to the original. Where did the person/poster/source get their information? Were any research reports or surveys accurately reported? If possible, check sources to verify that information has been accurately represented.
Limit Your News Exposure
Several decades ago, most people got their news once or twice a day from the daily newspaper or TV news programs. Nowadays, we have to be proactive to prevent the influx of too much information. It might sound like the most obvious solution, but limiting your exposure is one of the best ways to fight news overload.
While it’s always wise to be informed, you can take matters too far by constantly checking your news app, websites, social media, or watching too much TV. Give yourself a specific window of time each day to check high-quality news sources and avoid checking the news right before bedtime.
Take Care of Your Health
The effects of news overload can be insidious. That is why it’s essential to take care of yourself and attend to your basic needs.
Get enough sleep, get outside and exercise each day if you can, and stick to a healthy diet. Eating right is especially important because stress can be a key cause of emotional eating. The free WellRx Grocery Guidance App can provide inspiration and food tips to help you make healthier food choices. It can also help you stay on track with your wellness goals.
Practice Mindfulness Meditation
According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing meditation can be a beneficial way to stay grounded and clear away information overload. Mindfulness means being aware of, accepting, and living in the present moment.
Sit in a quiet spot for a few minutes, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Pay attention to how your body feels and notice your thoughts without attaching any particular importance to them. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths, inhaling to a count of 4 or 5, and exhaling to a count of 5 or 6; when thoughts arise, imagine that they’re flowing away, as though they’re floating down a river.
Seek Out Positive News
It can often seem like every headline, story, or post is dark, negative, or sensational. Finding positive news can be challenging because those stories aren’t typically bringing in the most clicks.
Bad news doesn’t represent the entire story of what’s going on in the world. Balance is the key to maintaining mental health and well-being. In an interview with NBC News, clinical psychologist Jani Scrivani advised checking out Good News Network to hear more about the positive happenings in the world.
Set Healthy Boundaries
While news overload can be overwhelming, remember that you are the one in control of your news consumption. You don’t have to talk about the news if you don’t want to, and you don’t even have to check it every day if you don’t feel like it. Set healthy boundaries with yourself and others, and you’ll likely feel more relaxed, less stressed, and better able to cope in your daily life.
Stacy Mosel, LMSW, is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, and substance abuse specialist. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, she continued her studies at New York University, earning a Master of Social Work degree in 2002. She has extensive training in child and family therapy and in the identification and treatment of substance abuse and mental health disorders. Currently, she is focusing on writing in the fields of mental health and addictions, drawing on her prior experiences as an employee assistance program counselor, individual and family therapist, and assistant director of a child and family services agency.