When the News Does More Harm Than Good

You need to be aware, but when current events become too stressful, there are three things you can do for your mental health

When the news does more harm than good

Whether we like it or not we live in a time where watching the news appears to be an exercise in anxiety and depression. Regardless of whether it’s local, international, cable, or evening – its producers rarely have something uplifting to report.

Missing planes. Mudslides. Climate change. Colony collapse. I can’t remember the last time I watched or read the news and was left feeling optimistic about the future of humanity.

I also know that a lot of my clients struggle with a deep sense of anxiety about what’s happening in the world – not to mention a feeling of powerlessness over what they can do about it.

The thing that’s tough about it though is that this is only one version of “current events.” Every day on this planet good and bad things happen – people are born and people die. Lifelong dreams are achieved, while others languish.

The world is a both/and place, not an either/or. So, for better or worse, it’s up to us to choose where we apply our attention.

I don’t want to seem like I’m advocating on behalf of denial, because I believe that we all have a responsibility to educate ourselves about what’s happening outside of our immediate surroundings – but the brutal truth is that a lot of what we come across in mainstream media is stuff that we’re powerless to change, and sometimes we just need to… turn it off.

Here’s how you can tell if what I’m saying applies to you:

  • Do you ever struggle with a diffuse sense of anxiety about what’s happening in the world? Or do you sometimes ruminate on the state of the planet and its future?
  • Do you feel powerless to stop or change what concerns you?
  • Do you ever worry about things that could befall you that are NOT happening right now, just because of news exposure? (Be honest.) A good example of that would be worrying about plane crashes after watching recent CNN coverage.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, here’s what you can do:

  1. Go outside, and apply your awareness to what’s happening right around you. Focus on the grass, and the birds, and anything you can access that’s both immediate and real, and requires one of your five, primary senses to uncover.

  2. Sit down and meditate for at least five minutes. Similarly to #1, one of the best solutions for anxiety is mindfulness or “present moment awareness.”

  3. Focus on something positive. Think about things that are happening in your life that have nothing to do with what’s going on in the news. Did your friend recently get a new puppy? Awesome [:)] Don’t underestimate the power of deliberately turning your attention to something uplifting, or something that’s within your control.

Want more advice on handling bad news? Join our empathetic community, talk to a free, trained Listener, or reach out to an online therapist today.

Leslie Carr, PsyD

Dr. Leslie Carr is a licensed clinical psychologist who works as both a therapist and a coach.

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