Many people experience some stress related to news and current events such as international relations, politics, school shootings and terror attacks. Media coverage of such events is readily accessible and can leave individuals feeling anxious, angry, sad and helpless. According to a recent American Psychological Association Stress in America Survey (2017), “Adults… indicated that they feel conflicted between their desire to stay informed about the news and their view of the media as a source of stress. While most adults (95%) say they follow the news regularly, 56 percent say that doing so causes them stress, and 72% believe the media blows things out of proportion.” It is normal to worry and be fearful when something terrible happens; however, there are many ways to manage anxiety in the face of these events. It is important to teach children how to do so, too.
Individuals have varying thresholds of news coverage they can tolerate without feeling overwhelmed. Many people want to stay informed, but it is important to recognize your limits. If you find yourself preoccupied with news events and this is interfering with your daily functioning, it may be time to limit your exposure. New information regarding various events is often infrequent and continuing to watch repeated coverage of the same information is not helpful. Consider setting aside a specific time of day to watch, read or listen to the news (preferably not just before bed time) and limiting the amount of time you expose yourself to news to 30-60 minutes per day. Turning off alerts on your phone so that you are not receiving a constant stream of news is another way to limit your exposure.
Challenge irrational and distorted thoughts
Most of these events do not directly impact us and it is important to keep things in perspective. When uncertainty arises, many people imagine the worst-case scenario. It is important to recognize and challenge catastrophic thinking. Tragic events do occur, but they are usually rare. Remember that the media often focus on the most notable or sensational or graphic aspects of a story. Rarely do media outlets provide equal coverage of the positive aspects of a story, or positive stories in general.
Talk to others who can offer support
Sometimes, people tend to isolate themselves when they are feeling worried. However, social support is important; it can be very helpful to learn that you are not alone with your feelings. Reach out to friends and family for support.
Engage in self-care
There are a number of self-care strategies which can be helpful, including but not limited to the following:
- Get enough sleep (at least 7 hours) and maintain a regular sleep schedule. Getting adequate sleep is critical in the management of stress.
- Eat a proper diet with healthy food choices.
- Refrain from alcohol and drug use. Alcohol and drugs may intensify negative emotions.
- Engage in regular exercise.
- Take time to relax and participate in leisure activities. Spend time doing something you enjoy.
It can be helpful to find meaningful ways to get involved with issues that are important to you. Taking active steps can decrease feelings of anxiety. Look for resources in your community that are available to you.
For many people, practicing these strategies is sufficient to manage anxiety related to current concerns. However, some individuals have difficulty and need help to manage stress. If anxiety and stress are interfering with your daily routine or daily functioning, a licensed mental health professional can help.