I’m the type of person who hits my alarm off and turns on a news podcast to half-listen to while I wake up. Once I’m awake, I check Twitter where I mainly follow news organizations. Then I listen to another news podcast while I shower and get ready for the day. More news content streams while I run errands, play video games, write news stories… It goes on.
Normally, following the news like this doesn’t bother me. But these days — in the midst of an uncertain global pandemic that’s turned everyone’s lives around and seems to change every few hours — I’m drowning in news.
Staying home the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to change my news consumption habits so they’re more healthy and helpful instead of sleep-ruining and anxiety-inducing.
Here are some ways I’ve found to manage the stress that comes along with wanting to be informed — whether you’re a news junkie like me or just trying to integrate a bit more journalism into your media diet.
Don’t read or watch the news right when you wake up or just before you go to bed
The last thing you need to hear when you open your eyes is the number of people who died from a mysterious new illness the day before. When closing them at night, you don’t need to hear the number of people who have recently lost their jobs.
Watching a negative news program increased people’s likeliness to self-report anxious and sad moods, according to a study from the British Journal of Psychology, a peer-reviewed journal.
Consume news while you’re outside, moving around or otherwise distracted
Instead, get your news while you’re not in bed — like on your back porch or while on a run. I’ve found sunlight is like protection from spiraling thoughts caused by the news.
If the outdoors isn’t an option, any type of distraction seems to work for me — whether it’s crafting, cooking or stretching. Catch up on news while doing anything that grounds you and reminds you there’s little you can do to solve the issues you’re hearing about.
On the other hand, if you’re under some sort of stress caused by the pandemic (or otherwise), wait until you are feeling more secure before putting yourself in a position to potentially hear more concerning information.
Find summaries of Chicago’s press conferences or the president’s speeches
The first few days of the stay-at-home order, I was glued to my TV. It was hard to think about anything else. Every few hours it seemed like a new official was coming on air to tell me urgent and dire news.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic in February 2020, about 66 percent of the Americans surveyed reported feeling “worn out by the amount of news,” according to the Pew Research Center.
To combat this, I’ve started reading the write-ups that come after press conferences and other televised events. Something about seeing difficult news written down in a few hundred words on a page is more manageable than watching hours worth of announcements, especially when officials are sharing information that’s upsetting to hear out loud.
Here’s a shameless plug: The Phoenix posts updates for the Chicago-specific press conferences every day. And for those who are at home in other states, most other local news outlets across the country do the same.
Speaking of local news, read the stories that relate to your life and directly matter to you
Prioritize the news that impacts you and your neighborhood.
Don’t ignore news that happens outside of your bubble when you feel like you have extra time and energy to expend. But, in times of stress, it’s probably more immediately useful focus on your own community. For example, reading about when and where you need to wear a mask or how you can help the people in your community might feel more useful than dwelling on other places’ problems you can’t solve.
A hyperlocal news source for Chicago is Block Club Chicago, a media organization that covers the city by neighborhood. Or, for Loyola students, the most hyper-specific source you can find is The Phoenix. Did you know we have a newsletter?
Spend time researching what you have questions about.
Another new issue I’ve run into national media organizations repetitively trying to answer the same questions. So, when I blindly hit play on my favorite podcasts, it sometimes feels like I’m relearning the same few topics over and over again.
Instead, I’ve started trying to seek out new (trustworthy) sources online who are answering more specific questions. Finding targeted information to answer my anxieties has been life-changing because I have real-world facts to calm myself down and ease my friends’ and family’s nerves as well.
This is the best way I’ve found to make the news work for me rather than feeling trapped underneath it all.
One example of this is the Ezra Klein podcast from Vox. Recently, he’s been recording a few episodes on different political leaders’ ideas about what the next stage of stay-at-home orders might look like and what hypothetical scenarios would look like.
Learning about these aspects of the pandemic feels more optimistic and actually clears up some of the nerves surrounding our lives right now.
Take breaks and be forgiving of yourself.
This one should be a given, but don’t try to consume the news for hours on end. Make sure to give yourself breaks with snacks or music or even just some quiet.
Don’t be hard on yourself for not wanting to see bad news all the time. It’s important to be informed but it’s more important to be healthy — mentally and physically. It’s okay to simply opt-out for a little while as long as you jump back in eventually.