Now more than ever, it’s important to stay informed. There are different ways to do it, be it the mainstream newspaper, their online versions, social media, television, radio or podcasts. We are constantly exposed to information and this may be something that affects us negatively. We simply cannot afford to not be aware of what happens in this time. But we cannot spend the whole day consuming all the news that is being published. So, how much news is too much?
As a journalism student, it is part of my job to stay informed. Since the murder of George Floyd and the protests in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement, going on social media has become a bit overwhelming. The situation itself is heavy and affects me as a black woman, but I also was receiving too much information, too fast. I couldn’t stop consuming it. I felt the need to constantly verify what was happening because I could not remain uninformed. Still watching the news affected me, I was still looking for more, and I knew I should take a moment to breathe, but couldn’t find how.
Not knowing how much news is too much is something many people face. A study on causes of stress in Americans, conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2017, showed that:
“Adults also indicated that they feel in conflict between their desire to stay informed on the news and their view of the media as a source of stress. While the majority of adults (95 percent) say they follow the news regularly, 56 percent say doing so causes stress, and 72 percent believe that the media exploits things disproportionately.”
The way of reporting events has changed. Now, everything is more visual, everything has a video or a photo and you don’t have to wait to get home and turn on the television to see it. The purpose of the media is to keep people connected and provide content that keeps their followers in tune. Consequently, most of the news we see is negative. Many times, the press falls into sensationalism in order to keep the audience connected, regardless of what kind of effect this type of news has on the reader.
Constantly reading negative news has an affect on us. It can cause symptoms of mental and physical stress, affects the mood, and how we get on with our day. It is human nature to react when we read something negative that may seem threatening to us. Therefore, every time we read a story, our body and mind react to it, even if we do not realize it.
So how can we help our mental health and stay informed at the same time? There is no exact number of how much news you should see per day because each person is different, so each person reacts differently. Some can endure more news than others; the most important thing is to find a balance and recognize when your mind says “enough.” Rather than focusing on how much daily news we read, it’s important to look at how we relate to news and how we react to it.
Here is a list of things you can practice to take care of your mental health while still being aware of what is happening in the world:
- Track for a full day how you react to the news you read: The first step in handling any situation is knowing what is going on and what the problem is. Take a day to count how much news you read, what content they have, where you consume them and how you feel each time you finish reading it. This will help you be aware of how your news consumption affects you.
- Choose a specific outlet to receive news: There are multiple sources of media and if we read them all, we end up completely overwhelmed due to the saturation of content. Choose which medium is more reliable, which one you like the most and focus on that. It could be one or several, it all depends on how much information you can handle.
- Designate a specific time to browse the media: We can spend the entire day on social media constantly being bombarded by news which drains us emotionally. Choose a time to read news and be consistent with it. Psychologist Haely Neidich recommends spending 30 minutes per day reading news.
- Balance the type of news you read: Not everything can be negative, be sure to make a habit of reading positive news during your daily news time. The positive news is there, sometimes the media doesn’t promote it. Regardless, this type of news can still cause a positive impact on you and your mental health.
- Do something healthy after reading news: Go for a walk, talk to a friend, meditate, read, watch your favorite show, or listen to music. Do something you like, that gives you happiness and peace after getting informed. Don’t let the news overwhelm your mind all day.
Negative news will always be present, there is no way to avoid it. But, it is in us how we manage and consume it. Remember to take care of your mental health, always. If reading about a specific topic hurts you, don’t read it. Your mental health matters more than constantly reading news. Take care of yourself!
Black lives matter today, tomorrow and forever. Find the best way to help the Black Lives Matter movement here.