CAN EVERYDAY EVENTS ON THE NEWS AFFECT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?
Iran - Iraq tensions escalate
World wide Recession
Volcanoes erupting in Asia
Occasional earthquakes in India
Rishi Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Sushant Singh Rajput
This has been the news we have watched for the first 6 months of the year and most of us already have started a countdown for this year to end. #cancel2020 is trending all over.
India has been under a national lockdown since March. This has curtailed movement and socialising. However with the extraordinary events taking place all around us, we want to stay updated. The TV, internet and the News seems to be the only way to do so.
Running a 24 hour news channel is not easy. People want to hear sensational news all the time. So by virtue of law of supply and demand, they tend to show us news with more “shock value” , most of which tend to be rather grim.
Staying informed is not just responsible, it is crucial to our safety. It helps us understand the what we’re about to face and be better prepared.
But how good is the news for you? Especially when all you read/ hear / watch / discuss on social media is unpleasant.
Most of us feel drained or mentally exhausted after consuming this information. Some even show physical symptoms of stress like fatigue, increased anxiety and difficulty sleeping.
To know more about symptoms of stress, do check out our video on the same, here:
So, How do we cope with this?
1. TAKE A BREAK:
If the news is bothering you too much and you are showing physical manifestations of your stress like a loss of appetite, sleep or feeling lethargic and listless, take a break from watching the news entirely. You don’t need to know the number of newly diagnosed covid cases per day, even if you are a healthcare worker. You don’t need to read about what J.K Rowling said and indulge in a social media debate about it. Right now, make your mental and physical health a priority.
2. LIMIT YOUR VIEWING TIME EACH DAY:
Like anything in life, moderation is key. Decide to limit your time alloted for the news everyday, so you can keep abreast of the events occuring all around you. But Don’t allow yourself to be distracted for more than that specific period of time. We have a tendency to be distracted by our phones beeping. Focus your attention on tasks you have to do.
3. GAUGE HOW YOU FEEL BEFORE WATCHING
If you are already stressed with other factors like your professional work, household chores or kids and then watch something that triggers you emotionally, like the death of a beloved public personality, you tend to have an exaggerated stress response. So it is important to be self aware and understand your psyche at that particular time. If you feel you are not prepared, avoid the news.
The information will still be available the next day when you feel better.
Remember, you can’t control these events from happening but you can control your reaction to it.
4. GET A NEWS SUMMARY FROM FRIENDS OR FAMILY
Sometimes, the news may not stress us as much as the theatrics of the anchors yelling at an unsuspecting audience. Prime time debates are known to cause stress responses like dilated pupils, tachycardia and high blood pressure. So if you are a person who is not confrontational, does not like loud sounds and aggressive people, please stay away from these kind of shows. They may bring up some good political points but will do more harm than good in the long run. Ask your friends and family to summarize the news for you. This will control the way you take up the information and your loved ones will ensure you don't get overhwelmed in the process.
5. RELIABLE SOURCES
I cannot stress this enough. CHECK YOUR SOURCES. Try to get your information form unbiased news houses or websites. Do not believe everything you read on whatsapp. Do not rely on obvious propaganda machines. Fact check the information you receive. A prejudiced world view will lead to prejudiced thoughts and in turn actions. Your response will be more emotional, less rational. Allow yourself to build your opinions based on neutral information.
6. BALANCE OUT THE BAD WITH THE GOOD
They always say you must have bad times in life, so you learn to appreciate the good times better. The key here is balance.
For every piece of bad news, try and find an article that makes you happy. Where , You ask. It doesn’t have to be newscast. It could be an article about a sportsperson that inspires you, nature that soothes your nerves or just a puppy / kitten video. It helps you keep check of your emotions and evens your mood.
Information is available at the tip of your fingers, how you consume and how you allow it to affect you, it is upto you.
Use you power of information wisely.
Stay safe , stay healthy.
Dr Vijayshree Patil
Anaesthesiologist and Critical Care Specialist
Founder, The Safety Net