There was a time where taking a time out to read the newspaper and have a cup of coffee was a relaxing, enjoyable experience. In an age of evolved news technology, where information about world events is accessible 24/7, most people will keep up to date on current affairs in some form of another. Currently, the world seems to be in a particularly dark age and the distressing, horrific headlines are relentless. We tend to react differently to fiction, where we appear to be de-sensitised to distressing content observed in shows such as Game of Thrones. It appears we feel more in control whilst viewing fiction, but the relentless reality of world events can leave us feeling powerless and can lead to issues such as vicarious trauma. It can also lead to physical issues or other mental health issues. Emotionally, constant exposure to negative news can impair our ability to concentrate and focus and can possibly lead to lethargy, hopelessness, depression and exhaustion.
But if I don’t watch the news how can it bother me?
Avoidance doesn’t work. It is the adult equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and singing loudly. Shutting yourself off from bad news doesn’t allow you to process and learn to deal with negative information. A study conducted by the University of Tel Aviv found that the mind will automatically keep returning to a semi-absorbed story to try to make sense of it, which will keep it rattling around in your head all day.
So how do we take back control and cope with negative news?
TURN OFF THE NEWS ALERTS
For a period of time each day, step away from whatever it is that you use to follow the news. Put it away where you cannot see it. Physically connect and disconnect.
TAKE BACK CONTROL OF YOUR CONSUMPTION
Seek out the publications that suit you best. Choose the platform that will treat sensitive issues with caution. Mix hard news with things such as lifestyle bloggers who write about your hobbies and interests. Set up alerts for such sites so you are receiving notifications about positive things also. It is all about balance.
GET A SEPARATE ALARM CLOCK
Many people use their smartphone as their alarm clock (guilty!) and sleep with it by the bed. What this means is that in the morning when you pick up your phone to turn off your alarm, the first thing you see could be a news headline. If this is negative, it can set the mood for the rest of the day.
STOP READING NEWS BEFORE BED
Disconnect from the news at least an hour before bed. Research has shown that those who read negative news less than an hour before bed are more likely to to have a broken nights sleep.
Regularly practicing healthy coping strategies such as mindfulness or meditation can help with making space in your mind to deal with the distressing content. Allow yourself time to process the information and reflect on your reactions to it. For more information on mindfulness and ways you can practice mindfulness, please check out out my post Mindfulness For The Restless