Feeling overwhelmed by negative news in the media?

28 June 2017 - mindful practices

Reading tragic news is never easy. We often feel overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness, shock or anger. To top that off, social media allows for a constant barrage of news to reach us. While that’s helpful in keeping us informed, it can also consume us in unhelpful ways if left unchecked.

How can we adjust our media diet to prevent us from being overwhelmed but stay informed? Here are two ways to go about doing that.

1. Limit access.

It’s important to use social media in a way that serves us. Dwelling excessively on negative news does nothing for our emotional well-being. Our time and energy could instead be used to focus on what we can do to help. Here are 2 ways to rejig your media consumption:

a. Read print media instead.
Consuming the news on social media often makes us feel anxious and exhausted because of its unrelenting nature (FOMO, anyone?). Instead, try reading the print edition of an established daily newspaper. This allows you to consume just enough as print editions are usually selective, featuring the most important and reliable news stories. Turning over the last page of a newspaper also gives us a sense of finality (for the day) that social media doesn’t.

b. Can’t do print? Make social media work for you.
Getting news via social media is useful when you’re in control of it. Here are some tips on how to do that:

If you get your news from Facebook or Twitter, uninstall these apps on your phone. Check them on your desktop once or twice a day. This way, you’re in control of the frequency and amount of information consumption.
Install the Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator. You’ll no longer get sucked in by live news and updates.
Find yourself compulsively checking news sites every few minutes? SelfControl allows you to block websites that distract you.

2. Find perspective.

Ever wondered why the media is full of bad news? The media exists to report things that are out of the ordinary. There are more acts of kindness in the world than there are acts of horror—they just aren’t reported as much.

American actor Fred Rogers famously said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Finding a balance involves accepting that tragedy happens, but also consciously seeking out instances of kindness and resilience. Life isn’t all roses, but keeping things in perspective is a powerful way to maintain our emotional well-being and find the strength to respond effectively.

If you’re feeling weary, here are some sites that keep things in perspective:

Positive News
Huffington Post’s Acts of Kindness column
Good News Network
BBC’s ‘The week’s happy news’
Sunny Skyz

Not doing the trick? It’s probably time to start Googling cute pictures of unusual animal friendships. (There’s a reason why we like them so much.)