Do you have Headline Stress Disorder?

I’ve got to the point where I am seriously rationing my news intake.  The more I read in order to get a clear understanding of news events, the more questions are raised in my mind, the bleaker the scenario becomes, the more the world seems a constant threat and the more anxious I get.  (I touched on this in my post from November last year: ‘The Co-vid 19 Infodemic’.)  And when, occasionally, good news comes along, it is soon dashed by some other negative development.  

For example, there was the uplifting news this week that covid rates in my area have been reducing at a rate of 20% week on week (after the people of Greater Manchester have followed strict lockdown restrictions since July 2020).  My mood continued to lift when I saw reports on the impressive speed of vaccinations in the North West.  The next news is that: (a) there are concerns that the planned time lag between the first and second vaccinations will be too long for the vaccine to fulfil its tested efficiency level; (b) the Government is reducing the supply of vaccines by a third in the North West as a thank you for our sacrifices; (c) we hear that vaccine production is falling behind schedule; and (d) we are now on a collision course with Brussels who wants more of the UK produced Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to meet the EC’s vaccine shortages.  What the hell is happening?  Will the over 65s like me get the vaccine by the end of February as originally promised (I doubt it) and will lockdown continue for months more because vaccinations are delayed?  

And that’s just the Covid shit-news! Never mind the news about the state of the world’s economy, climate change, wars etc..

So how are we supposed to consume the news healthily, i.e. without it taking its toll on our mental health?  Here are my suggestions.

1. Don’t expect a balanced view from the media.

Newsfeeds have to be funded and in fact are required to make lots of money so it is in their interests to ’emotionalise’ or ‘sensationalise’ it to grab attention.  The Media does this by emphasising the potential negative outcomes rather than showing how low the risk of further negative outcomes actually is.

News has to be 24 hours so rather than presenting straight facts and a considered story, it can be churned out quickly knowing it can be modified at regular intervals to keep your attention often by ramping up the emotional and sensational aspects of a news event or story. 

We know the big tabloids compete to create the most shocking headline to get you to buy their paper. Even more respectable sources sensationalise facts to draw you in and keep your attention.

The news feed apps are particularly bad because they designed to present and structure the news in such a way as to keep you reading through masses of advertising.

2. Limit your news exposure.  I have and I’ve completely stopped looking at news on my phone and elsewhere after 6.30 in the evening so I can relax and go to bed with a clearer mind.

3. Be aware of the effects of real life stories. Often they can be uplifting. It is always comforting to know how people have battled the odds or selflessly given themselves to a cause. But, heart-wrenching accounts of suffering don’t always give you the facts and can have a negative impact on your emotional state and mental health.

4. Talk about the News.

In lockdown, most of my communication with family and friends is over the phone, Zoom or social media.  We talk about the news much more than we used to pre-covid because there’s sod all else to talk about as we haven’t been anywhere or done anything interesting. We usually have a good moan to each other and slag off the Government and whoever else we think is responsible for the bad news.  The danger is we might reinforce the bad feelings we have rather than question or regulate each others’ views and focus on good stuff. I think it’s also ok to say to someone, “I don’t want to talk about that today. Can we talk about something else?”

5. Keep Busy.

Thinking about and dwelling on bad shit all day is not good for you. Keep busy. Indulge yourself, keep active and make your own news – however insignificant it may seem in the scheme of things.

Let me know if you have any suggestions / thoughts. Pop them in the Comments box.


Author: Paul

I am a retired, married bloke, dad and grandad - growing old with attitude.

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