News Overload and How to Avoid it

Q It seems like everywhere I go, from the dry cleaner to the diner, the TV news is on and it’s all bad. Why does everyone have the news on all the time?

A You are not alone. Whereas we used to be able to tune into the evening news to catch up on the day’s events, we are now bombarded with news from a variety of sources including the car radio, cable TV news, and social media outlets. All these sources are competing for our eye and ears around the clock. Technology innovations created the need for content, giving us the 24-hour news cycle. It seems as if we’ve conditioned ourselves to crave breaking news. We sit in front of computers and smart phones, checking for updates. At some point, it gets to be too much.

Research shows that watching too much coverage of traumatic events can cause symptoms associated with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Images of plane wreckage and destruction, or sounds of gunfire and bombs, are somehow attractive to our senses for reasons that science doesn’t totally understand. Perhaps it’s a need to understand our complex world.
Perhaps it provides us with a sense of security to see bad things happening elsewhere to someone else. It’s hard to simply look away.

How much is too much? If you experience any of the following emotions after watching or listening to news, maybe it’s time to take a break:

  • Anxiety/ Worry
  • Depression/ Sadness
  • Fearfulness
  • Despair/Hoplessness

Here’s how to break the “news junkie” habit:

  • Don’t consume news from any source (newspaper, TV, radio, social media) before bed.
  • Ask restaurants, bars, stores, etc., to change the channel or turn off the TV.
  • Listen to music or books on tape in the car.
  • Participate in activities that don’t require electricity or accessibility, such as gardening or swimming.
  • Turn to creative pursuits like painting, drawing or writing.
  • Read or watch something for pleasure, for instance, a favorite magazine or funny movie.
  • Practice exercises that quiet your mind, such as Tai Chi, yoga, meditation or prayer.

These techniques will help re-train your brain to not need the constant stimulation of breaking news. You will always find the most crucial information somehow, but without all of the unfiltered commentary and hysteria that accompanies it.