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news consumption and your mental health

news consumption and your mental health

discover how news consumption shapes your wellbeing and the ways to protect yourself from its negative impacts on mental health

In today’s hyper-connected world, we find ourselves immersed in a constant flow of news through round-the-clock broadcasts and the ever-present updates on social media. Whether it’s updates from war zones, political developments, or even just the daily weather forecast from the BBC, the barrage of information often leaves us feeling uneasy and powerless in the face of distant events.

We can’t escape the news—it’s on our smartphones, the TV, the tabloids and even permeates our casual conversations. According to the News Consumption Survey conducted by Ofcom, more than 90% of Scottish adults are interested in the news, more than any other home country in the United Kingdom. While being informed is good, the constant exposure to current affairs can become an emotional rollercoaster, swinging us between feelings of happiness, sadness, anger or outright confusion due to the unpredictable nature of global events.

Common myths about news and mental health

being informed means consuming all news constantly 

Some believe that staying informed requires always keeping up with every piece of news. The truth is, it’s okay to set boundaries and select reliable sources to avoid overwhelming yourself. 

news always present
a complete picture

News can be selective and biases may influence coverage. Be cautious of misinformation and fake news —always verify facts from diverse and reputable sources to ensure a well-rounded perspective.

constant exposure
to news is unavoidable

Like with work and school, it’s possible to manage your news intake by setting intentional breaks and choosing when and how to consume information. Finding a balance can improve your mental wellbeing. 

Why does the news impact my mental wellbeing?

The constant stream of news can significantly impact mental wellbeing, particularly the ones with distressing content. Exposure to negative events can lead to heightened stress and anxiety and can even lead to depression. This is because the human brain is wired to react to threats, and the news, which frequently focuses on problems and crises, can trigger a prolonged stress response.  

Examples of these negative events can include: 

  • Natural disasters such as earthquakes  
  • War, conflict and acts of terror 
  • Political developments 
  • News of death or suicide 
  • Climate change 

The sheer volume of information and the rapid pace at which it is delivered in today’s digital age can overwhelm individuals, making it challenging to process and digest the news in a healthy manner.  

Remember also to remain vigilant against false news. News stories often tend to be exaggerated or even untrue, driven by the desire for increased clicks and views. Certain sources may have incentives to present an incomplete narrative to portray their side of the story. Keep in mind that many media platforms utilise tactics to boost sales or traffic, aiming to attract more visitors for financial gain.

If you’re already experiencing poor mental health or managing mental illness, exposure to misleading information can worsen symptoms, intensify feelings of vulnerability, and restrict access to accurate and supportive resources.

How can I stay informed without harming my mental health? 

Being informed is important, but taking care of our mental health is important too. Here are some practical tips you can take when reading the news whilst protecting your wellbeing:

Take a break

We all want to stay informed and be compassionate to what other people are facing in the world. However, this can take a serious toll on our minds. It’s important we take breaks from the news to look after our mental health. Whether that’s for an hour, a day, a week, or longer if necessary. It can be particularly helpful to take this break at the start and end of our day, as our minds can be more sensitive to the information we receive.

Avoid doom-scrolling

Doomscrolling is when we spend an excessive amount of time absorbing negative news, which, after time, can intensify fear and anxiety. To avoid this, only look at the news at certain times of the day for a limited duration and try not to break this routine. If possible, try not to read the news late at night, as we’re in a lower mood during the nighttime.

Do something relaxing after consuming the news

After consuming lots of news, our mind and body can feel heavy with tension and stress. A new activity helps manage the stress so we don’t feel heavy all day. Having a short walk outside and calming breathing techniques can help with this. Read our resource on how to improve your wellbeing.

Be conscious of the content you consume

It’s important to monitor how much we consume graphic or violent content. It’s also important to consume news from trusted publications to avoid any alarmist speculation. A useful tool when assessing whether a news story is trustworthy is The Share Checklist.

Be mindful of notifications and social media

Notifications and news streams on social media can make it difficult to take breaks from the news. Consider changing the notification settings on your phone so you can choose when to be updated with news. Monitor which social media sites provide the most news coverage and limit time on these sites when necessary.

How do I help others cope with news-related stress?

Supporting friends or family members affected by news-related stress involves empathy and understanding. Encourage open communication, allowing them to express their feelings and concerns without judgment. Suggesting a break from continuous news updates, especially during particularly challenging periods like grief, can provide a much-needed break.  

Share coping mechanisms, such as mindfulness techniques or even workouts, to help them manage stress. Encourage outdoor activities and contact with nature for its strong benefits for our mental health. Offering a sense of perspective by highlighting positive news or actionable steps individuals can take in response to negative events can also be beneficial. Ultimately, creating a supportive environment and fostering connections can play a crucial role in helping others navigate the emotional toll of consuming news. 

support

Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at advice@changemh.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

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