How to stay informed without driving yourself into a pit of despair

Though the title may seem a tad dramatic, our consistent consumption of heart-breaking news is beginning to have serious consequences.  In times of crisis, staying informed and up-to-date aids in regaining a sense of control.  However, in such a changeable environment, remaining up to date has proven to be a mammoth task.  Throughout the first lockdown, I watched the news up to four times day, followed news channels on all social media and received regular notifications from online news sites.  As a result, I was overwhelmed.  Our constant consumption of morbid mortality rates, stories of families losing loved ones and images of front-line workers struggling to cope will undoubtedly have devastating implications for our mood and well-being. 

 

Consequently, due to the repetitive and overwhelming nature of the news, the phenomenon labelled ‘news fatigue’ is becoming more prevalent.  Specifically, a dramatic increase in the number of people actively trying to avoid news concerning Covid-19 has been observed.  Whilst avoiding the news may initially alleviate overwhelm and stress, such a phenomenon has a detrimental impact on the public understanding of Covid-19 and attitudes to pandemic prevention.   With anti-lockdown/mask/vaccine rhetoric circulating social media sites, paying close attention to trusted news sources is not only important for our own sakes, but aids in disentangling deadly conspiracies posing as facts. 

 

So, how do we manage this without driving ourselves into despair?

 

  1. Focus on specific aspects each day  Practise skimming headlines and narrowing your consumption by focusing on one or two specific areas (e.g. vaccine statistics) each day.  This way, you’ll not only avoid overwhelming yourself, but you'll also develop a deeper understanding of your chosen daily topics.  In order to do this effectively, instead of relying on random notifications from news sources, follow pages like Simple Politics, which aim to communicate the main daily updates in a brief, simple way.    

  2. 15 minutes is all it takes Limit your news consumption.  Depending on how you enjoy consuming the news, I’d suggest anything from 15 minutes to 1 hour.  Rather than watching the news multiple times a day with limited focus and interest, dedicate a specific time each day to updating yourself and critically thinking about the information you’ve learnt.  Use podcasts like Today in Focus, The Slow Newscast, Coronavirus Global Update or the BBC Global News Podcast to engage in the day’s events.      

  3. Address your mood Before listening to the news, address how you’re feeling.  If you already feel stressed, overwhelmed or upset, consider whether now is the right time to be consuming such intense information.  Taking a day off every now and then is normal and healthy.  Similarly, address how you’re feeling after listening to the news.  It is important that any feelings of anxiety, overwhelm and hopelessness are acknowledged and attended to.      

  4. Get involved If you have been feeling helpless throughout the pandemic, committing to taking action in some way will aid in alleviating this feeling. Whilst physically volunteering for charities or the NHS is an effective way of taking action, smaller gestures are just as necessary. For instance, organising and signing petitions, donating to good causes, ensuring elderly neighbours are well and posting reliable, informative information on social media all serve to do good for the world, and your own well-being.      

  5. Read good news stories Try to remember that the overwhelmingly negative news doesn’t account for the whole picture. Visit sites like The Good News Network to remind yourself that fun, upbeat, heart-warmingly positive events are still happening every day.

 

On the 23rd of January 2020 Wuhan became the first place to lockdown.  Unfortunately, with deaths at an all-time high in the UK, it seems that Covid-19 will remain to be a defining aspect of 2021.   Though, staying informed in a manageable, healthy way will help in regaining a sense of control and aid in preventing the circulation of harmful, false information.