From social media, to our various email accounts, to regular television programming, everywhere we turn all we see or hear is news about the coronavirus outbreak. It can become overwhelming and stress-inducing even if all we want to do is stay informed. But what can we do to better manage feeling overwhelmed while still extrapolating necessary information? Much like dieting and exercise, digesting news in moderation, while balancing it with positive and inspiring stories or discussions with family and friends, is the key to managing stress and anxiety levels during this period of confinement. In "How to Be Intentional About Consuming Coronavirus News," Jill Suttie explains why absorbing too much news is unhealthy, how our brains process the news, and gives solutions to help us cope with the stress and anxiety caused by relentless and over-saturated media.
Even if we want to, we cannot avoid the news entirely, especially because it helps us to make informed decisions during this period of continual change and adaptation. But "constantly reading negative, sensationalist news stories can have long-term consequences for our well-being." Studies have shown that people who take in more constant and shocking news end up suffering from "acute stress and other symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, with poorer health up to three years later." In addition, the distress caused by consuming an excess of bad news hampers good decision-making that may amplify fears that lead to paranoia and depression, making unhealthy choices, and resorting to other dangerous habits to cope with the onslaught. Limiting the amount of news to once daily and turning off phone alerts "is infinitely better for us than scrolling through our newsfeeds on social media every hour."
But why is it so hard for us to pull away from reading more about bad news when we know it is only going to make us feel worse? Because we have evolved to identify danger so we can seek safety, our brains have a "negativity bias" that forces us to keep looking for the scary news as a means to hopefully identify something within it that will keep us safe. By seeking out alarmist news, it can "lead us to be less kind and helpful toward others, right at the time we need to come together the most." Limit your time on social media and focus on news from reputable and non-partisan sources to reduce the shock to the senses. However, veering too far off into an overly-positive space may over-stimulate the "optimism bias—thinking bad things are less likely to happen to us than to other people—" which is also a problem that may give us a false sense of security and invincibility.
To mitigate the over-stimulation caused by media consumption, we should try to reach a balance by making an effort to virtually connect more with friends and family. It can create a sense of community and solidarity because we are all experiencing isolation and by seeing pictures and posts describing mundane activities, we increase the social connection with those we care about. Another means to stabilize the barrage of negative news is by focusing on "stories that go into depth around a problem, but also let you know what’s being done to solve the problem effectively." Focusing on news that highlights solutions and what is working will help to deflect some of the negative feelings we are all carrying.