Dealing with the News Cycle: How to find healthy and productive ways to engage with the news.

If you’ve been following the news cycle recently, it can be deeply overwhelming and stressful. It’s easy to feel as though we have to be constantly plugged in to keep track of everything going on, both nationally and internationally, and social media can easily add to that idea, calling out people for not posting about the latest crisis. However, it’s important to remember that anxiety is not activism. Doomscrolling will not solve anything. So how can we deal with stressful news and crises in a productive and healthy way?

First of all, take a minute. Set the phone down and breathe. Sometimes, if you’re really struggling with an issue, it can help to get some space. I was overwhelmed by an issue close to my heart, and while spending time online was helping me understand the impact of the issue, it also was emotionally wrecking me. I needed to take a walk, and that helped a lot. Perhaps listening to music while you walk could be helpful.

Second, it often helps to find someone to talk to. However, you want to make sure that the person you’re talking to will not be someone who makes you more stressed, because sometimes conversations about the news cycle can just make both parties more worked up. Find someone who generally has a calming presence and who has made you feel better in other similar situations. 

Third, find out what you can do. Helplessness can be one of the biggest struggles we face when large-scale crises are happening. It’s easy to feel like we have no power when people are hurting on the other side of the world, but there’s usually something we can control, even if it seems small. Maybe you can donate a couple dollars to a humanitarian aid organization in the affected area, or maybe you can attend a protest in your area. If you do a little research, there’s almost always something you can do. Sometimes, just having conversations with people matters, especially if it’s a deeply divisive issue or an issue that isn’t getting much coverage. 

Lastly, be cognizant about your habits and in touch with your emotions. If you notice that, even after trying the tips above, you’re still struggling whenever you open a certain app or when you get notifications from a news source, it’s okay to take a break. Many smartphones have options to disable apps at certain times of day or to limit the amount of time you’re spending on each app. Using these built-in tools, you can make sure you’re not doomscrolling right before bed or that you only have half an hour to spend on a social media platform. There are even fun apps that reward you for not spending time on your phone.

It’s important to stay informed about what’s going on in the world, but it doesn’t have to come at the expense of our mental health. If you notice that the news cycle is getting to you, take steps to help where you can and let go where you can’t.

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