If you feel like you have lived several years in the past few weeks, you are not alone. You may not be able to stop scrolling through the news — looking at an app for the latest updates, or searching aggregate news sources. You may have the news running in the background during the day, or while you are eating dinner.
You may feel you are just doing your job as a citizen by keeping informed. However, there is a difference between reading or listening to the news to keep updated, and getting hooked on every update.
While you may feel you need a constant stream of news, it may not be good for your mental health. If you feel a compulsion to check the news, it may be interfering with your daily life activities. The number of crisis stories in the news can also leave you feeling anxious and depressed, leading to insomnia and physical complaints.
So where do you draw the line between staying informed and practicing good self-care?
Critically Evaluate The Content
Ask yourself some questions before you dive into an article or summary. Is what you are reading factual? Does it add to an already existing body of knowledge? Is it helping you make a decision or otherwise adding to your life? Is it a rehashing of news you already read? Is it in your best interest to continue reading? Consider whether this piece of news is worth the brainpower you are expending. Also think about whether continually looking at the news is an efficient use of your time. Is this piece of news written in a way that looks like clickbait? What is the reputation of your news source? If you’re going to spend your time looking at the news, make sure it comes from a credible source. Stay away from sensationalizing.
Limit Your Time
One of the most efficient ways to limit your exposure to the news is to set a time limit on your apps and screen time. On an Apple phone, go to Settings, Screen Time, App Limits, Add Limit, and Information & Reading. You will usually find your news apps under that category. You can either set a time limit on all the apps in that category or just on particular apps that you tend to drift to without realizing it. You can customize days and time frames for viewing.
Consider having a “no news” rule after a certain hour. This ban can include not only looking at the news but also refraining from discussing it. You may find your relationships with your family members improving when a cap is put on the discussion of current events.
Ask Yourself Why You’re Reading It
Are you reading a news feed on Twitter because you are genuinely interested, or is it because you feel fear? Are you checking the news because you are bored, or are you genuinely seeking an update about a story? When you examine your motivations for checking the news, it helps you practice moderation. If the news you are reading will help you remain more connected to your world, improve your work or personal habits, or move you towards positive change, then there shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you find that the more news you read, the more difficulties you are having relating to others or performing at work, consider scaling back on how much you are reading.
Mind Your Sleep Habits
When you look at light-emitting devices before and during bedtime, you are decreasing the quality of your sleep and even decreasing sperm quality due to that lack of sleep. Backlit devices can inhibit the release of melatonin, a hormone that tells the brain when to sleep and when to wake up. One study found that turning down the brightness on your screen did not improve this suppression of melatonin, and therefore did not improve sleep. When you are reading the news on your device immediately before or during bedtime, you are hurting the quality of your sleep. And a lack of sleep increases your chances of developing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Shut off your electronics well before you go to bed.
Check Your Stress Levels
While there have been many recent events that can easily cause you to continually check the news, consider the impact it has on your level of stress. Checking the news, especially during a time of crisis, can become addictive. If you are alternating between running on adrenaline and suffering complete exhaustion, upsetting news can continue that vicious cycle. Talk to a mental health professional if you are not feeling like yourself. If you are considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.