Stay Informed While Protecting Your Mental Health

Living in a 24-hour news cycle is exhausting. We are constantly bombarded by news events, social media posts, notifications, and text messages. Add on the typical, pesky holiday stressors and things can easily feel a bit overwhelming. While staying informed is a critical part of belonging to a community and staying engaged, it can also negatively impact our mental health – especially in moments of crisis.

But first, why do we find ourselves drawn to the news in crisis? The answer lies in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The base level of this area of thought is that we innately seek out safety, security, and survival. Staying up-to-date is a vital part of surviving. Thus, our brain tunes into these cues, often to an unproductive level.

So how can we limit news intake to a healthy level? While there is no exact science on the “right” amount of news intake, some experts suggest an hour a day (but not all in one sitting). Some other tips include:

  • Set limits: Set a timer and limit your hour of news consumption to four blocks of 15 minutes for example. Additionally, limit the amount of sources you get news and information from. It is more effective, and healthy, to get news from 2 sources rather than from 50 accounts, channels, or websites.
  • Practice digital hygiene: It may be hard since we often charge our devices at night (and use our phones as alarm clocks), but remove them from your nightstand. Even moving them a few feet away can make it harder to easily pick up your device and start the doom scroll. Plus there’s the added benefit of not being able to snooze your alarm for 45 minutes.
  • Have time to decompress: The news can be stressful. Try to limit news intake during times where you will not be able to do something to mitigate stress. For example, reading news in the early evening before bed can lead our minds to race and detract from vital sleep.

Bottom Line: Like most things, news and information are key to actively engaging with the world. However, reading too much – especially during stressful times – can effect our physical and mental health. Moderation is key to protect what matters most in times of stress. A pro tip is replacing this extra time you gain back with meaningful self-care, whatever that means to you.