Here at Below the Fold, we’ve heard how important consuming news is specifically from underrepresented communities. These groups have vocally expressed how events reported in the news directly impact their families, choices, and overall lives.
Yet, these groups aren’t the ones experiencing the highest levels of news fatigue. The same Pew study found that:
While it’s clear that news is causing exhaustion and stress, where is it really coming from? Let’s explore that next.
When comparing people’s general stress levels throughout the day to their stress levels when consuming news, our 2020 News Wellness Study found that stress levels increased when consuming news.
When asked to rate their stress levels throughout the day, the majority (25%) ranked stress at 5 out of 10. But then, when asked to rate their stress levels when consuming news, the majority (22%) ranked their stress at 8 out 10. Readers also noted how stressful they found news to be overall.
What is causing this stress? Beyond 24-hour news cycles, other culprits on our news wellness include constant consumption, negative news coverage, headline stress disorder, and the recent coronavirus pandemic.
From everything we’ve read, studied, and learned so far it’s clear that despite feeling stressed because of reading the news, we recognize that we do need to read the news. In fact, being a less active reader of news can even cause more stress.
So then how do we balance the two and create our own news wellness? We asked journalists, mental health experts, and even our own team members at Below the Fold and found various habits that are worth exploring. Keep in mind that your own ideal news wellness will come from trying various practices and seeing what works for you.
With that, let’s explore seven tips that came from these various conversations.
There are more ways to consume news today than ever before. This is a good thing, as it allows us to understand the medium most-suited to our own well-being. For example, some people are triggered by visuals, so TV broadcasts could be more harmful than beneficial as a medium for consuming news information. Others are impatient listening to radio or podcasts, which can create an uneasiness; digital or print articles can be more beneficial in these cases where you can control the pace at which you consume.
There are likely many factors, so experimenting with what is ideal for you is worth investing time in and determining the mediums you’ll most often turn to.
We’ve already heard time and time again how constant, 24-hour news can be damaging to our mental health. While many articles recommend designating periods of time where you consciously unplug, we recommend being conscious about when you do plug in.
For many, catching up on news as soon as you wake up is an impulse reaction. Starting your day with potentially negative headlines could negatively impact your mood for the remainder of the day. At the same time, ending your day with potentially negative news could disturb your sleep. Test out different times of day and commit to the ones that leave you the least stressed out after.
Our 2020 News Wellness Study found that the majority of adults consume news up to three hours a day.
When there’s a major negative event in the news, whether the latest school shooting, a drop in the economy, or the recent coronavirus pandemic… it naturally overtakes social conversations. There’s two ways to actively take control of these conversation
Lean in to the social chatter.
For some people, learning about updates and discussing mainstream news topics with family and friends can be a healthy way to consume new information without having to actively follow mainstream headlines.
In this way, you rely on your network to let you know of major developments.
"This social part, to me (even as an introvert), is the most important part of my news wellness. It forces me to hear what I'm thinking and evaluate myself by comparing my takeaways and opinions with others'. And, it brings me closer to those that discuss these stories with me as I learn more about them and how their lives have shaped their perspectives."
Vivian Diep, Below the Fold Co-Founder
Lean out to the social chatter.
For others, constantly talking about what’s happening can be overwhelming.This was even more true in 2020.
Clinician Sabeen Ahmed shared how she removed herself from Zoom hangouts when COVID-19 dominates the discussion, believing it’s important to have to strict boundaries.
"When others make predictions about how long the virus will last or its impact on the economy, discuss the current death toll or the daily news, is easy to get sucked into the void of negativity. While it’s important to have a realistic and cautious outlook on what’s happening, too much news or constant COVID talk can take an unhealthy toll on us."
Sabeen Ahmed, Clinician