With ongoing news reports on the atrocities in Ukraine and the continuing covid-19 updates, it is unsurprising that there have been reports of increased stress and anxiety. While it is important to stay informed, experts have warned that digesting too much trauma-related news is linked to a host of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress symptoms.
So, how can you effectively manage your mental health while still staying informed? Here are some top tips:
- Read without audio or visual
Audio and video can be very visceral: Seeing or hearing someone else suffering can take a toll on your own psyche. According to Jacqueline Sperling, a clinical psychologist and faculty member at Harvard Medical School, news summaries without any pictures or videos attached are often more approachable.
2. Limit your exposure to “live news”
Sperling also recommends limiting your intentional news consumption to a few predetermined moments per day. It may be helpful to select no more than a certain number of times per day to check the news. That way, you aren’t consistently and mindlessly exposing yourself to repeat news cycles of bad news.
It is paramount to remember to keep up with your self-care practices during difficult times like this. This means getting enough sleep and exercise, staying connected with friends and family, and engaging in other practices that you find comforting — from meditation or yoga to prayer or even just watching a movie.
According to Dana Rose Garfin, an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine, self-care practices can help you to stay centred and grounded so that you can maintain your own inner peace.
4. Avoid watching the same news reports over and over again
News outlets have a tendency to report the same information over and over again, which isn’t beneficial for some people. So if you hear the same stories, it might be prudent to turn the TV or radio off.
Garfin suggests listening to a daily news podcast from a trusted news source to get your information and agrees with Sperling’s recommendations to avoid graphic images or videos and limit your exposure time. For Garfin, a healthy maximum limit of news consumption is roughly 20 to 30 minutes per day.
5. Taking Action
Often, we can feel helpless in the face of so much suffering. Finding ways to donate or volunteer your time — in this case, that could mean doing something to help Ukrainian refugees — is another way to help reduce stress and manage your mental health. Sperling says the act of getting involved can help reduce the sense of helplessness that many people feel during times of a crisis.