Do you get news anxiety? That’s what I call the sensation of stress bubbling away when I do my morning skim of the news. Sometimes I’m aware of my blood pressure and heart rate mounting as I read.
My natural temperament is to overthink and worry, but it’s something I don’t indulge and have worked hard to tame – being a neurotic little clod is not chic. Nor do I want to avoid reality and be ignorant, I want to understand the world and people around me.
So I’ve found a way to get the gist without developing news anxiety. Here are my tips.
How to cope with news anxiety
1. Be aware of the caffeine + news double hit
If, like me, you ingest your news with breakfast and you’re sensitive to the effects of coffee, then you may be doing the mental health equivalent of sunbathing immediately after exfoliation. With caffeine coursing through your veins, you’ll be sensitized to news anxiety.
Still, this timing works for me in other ways, so I’ve found it helpful simply to be aware I’m in a vulnerable state, to not freak out if I feel a jolt of stress as I take in the state of the world. Reminding myself I’m in a highly caffeinated state let’s me mentally adjust my responses.
2. Pick your news sources with care
Some news outlets are almost hysterical in their reportage. Their style is so overblown and sensationalistic, with so little balance, that excavating the fact kernels is like doing an archeological dig. If you get your news from these tabloid drama queens, expect palpitations and full-blown news anxiety.
Instead, retrieve your news from reputable outlets – ones with high journalistic standards, fact-checking, actual sources. Be mindful of the worst offenders and choose to never click, however much a clickbaity headline tempts you. If it’s genuine news, you’ll find it on reliable news sites.
And consider subscribing to quality news media. You’ll be looking after your mental health and also supporting embattled journalists.
3. Think twice before you click anything
When you’re tempted to click a link, first pause. Is this edifying? A topic you want to understand, an issue of concern to you? If it’s gossipy or nasty or alarmist, do you want to invest your time and emotion there? If it’s someone complaining or catastrophizing about something over which you have no control, do you want it in your head? Will it make you feel bad about yourself or someone else, or fuel news anxiety?
It’s difficult to talk yourself down once you have a bunch of distressing or mean crap in your head. Better to not let it in to begin with. Protect your peace: pause before you click.
4. Tone down headline drama
It’s the job of news organizations to write compelling headlines. If we don’t click the story or buy the paper (for when the wireless is on the blink, silly) then they can’t survive. They aren’t trying to make us anxious (mostly – though see #2 above), but scaremongering sells.
So we need to understand that headlines will rarely be calm and neutral, even in the most high quality news publications. Having this awareness, we can mentally neutralize the writing as we read. We can notice melodramatic words and not get manipulated.
Parsing emotive language is an excellent skill to develop. Not only will it help you avoid news anxiety, it will improve your ability to analyze any argument you encounter.
5. Use a humor filter
Although I skim the Sydney Morning Herald app each morning, by far my chief source of news would be satirical sites and news comedy shows. I’m not joking! Their material covers all the pressing matters of the day, but served up with wit and often a delightful absurdity that takes the venom out of the sting.
You could try:
Here in Australia my favorites are:
- Shaun Micallef’s MAD AS HELL
- Have You Been Paying Attention
- The Weekly with Charlie Pickering
- The Chaser
- The Shovel.
Humor news sites are my favorite way of knowing what’s going on the world – and the laughs help keep news anxiety at bay.
6. Give up gruesome details
I’m an over-responsible person – though thankfully, becoming less so all the time. One of the destructive habits of we who think we have to rescue everyone and fix everything? We expose ourselves to all the information. We think we need to know all the upsetting facts.
Truth is, we don’t. How much you need to know on any matter is for you to decide. But if you suffer from news anxiety, then you can probably reduce how much you’re currently taking in. Read the intro paragraph, but skip the gory details. Skim the general article, but forgo the detailed analysis. Unless it’s your passion or important for your life, you don’t have to know all the grisly particulars.
7. Practice grace and poise as you read
Finally, here’s are two ways to manage yourself while you read difficult news.
First, compose your body. Deliberately slow your breathing. Relax your shoulders. Notice what’s happening inside and release physical tightness.
Second, calm your mind. Accept that this is life, full of ups and downs. Know that everything passes, that rain is inevitable, but the sun always comes out again.
Reading mindfully helps you to stay with yourself, to not get carried away with the drama and fall prey to news anxiety.
In fact, tuning in to your body and mind like this an excellent way to cultivate grace and poise for all life’s difficulties. And an excellent way to be more chic.