It seems like the past few years have brought us loads of unsettling news. Because of everything happening around the globe, from the pandemic to climate changes to economic, social and political unrest, it seems like there is bad news everywhere we turn. It comes through the TV and on our phones, computers, billboards, through social media and even from friends. Even when we’re not looking for information, it seems to find us anyway. If you’re feeling exhausted by it all, know you’re not alone! Many people feel stressed and anxious by what they hear, read and see. That’s why we want to take a look at how you can take a “digital break” from the information stream to recenter your mind and refocus your attention.
Why digital media habits are hard to break
People access news to learn more about what is going on in the world. When unsettling events happen, it’s natural to want to learn more so it makes sense. In order to reduce uncertainty in our lives, we may look up even more information to try to explain it all.1 This can land us right in the middle of a news-stress loop.2,4 Studies show that nearly all the media that we click on or watch is bad news.2,4 And the hypercompetitive news industry serves up content that’s designed to target our emotions and make us think the world is more dangerous than it is.2,4
When we view or read news that’s alarming, we’re often prone to feeling stressed.1 If you’re a person who’s predisposed to feelings of anxiety in the first place, the added stress brought on by constant news exposure and heightened feelings of anxiety and depression can be harder to manage.2,4
Maybe you’ve heard it called “doomscrolling,” “headline anxiety,” “media saturation overload” or “headline stress disorder.”1,4 Each refers to the elevated feelings of anxiety and stress caused by what we’re seeing and reading. It matters because this can have negative impacts on our mental and physical health. In some people, stress can lead to feelings of anger, resentment, sadness, worry, frustration and helplessness.1,3 Stress can also cause physical and behavioral changes in people, like headaches, muscle tension, stomach problems, rashes, difficulty sleeping, drinking more alcohol and a lack of interest, energy, ambition and appetite.1,3
Have questions about your digital diet? Create your Teladoc Health account to find a therapist you can talk to about how to manage better in the digital world.
In our digital, interconnected world, it’s hard to avoid news and new information entirely. Our computers, phones and TVs all bring it to us 24/7. And social media and television are often the worst offenders.1 However, there are things we can do to create healthy boundaries from technology, take a break and change our routine.
Dialing back our watching and scrolling habits also creates space for other activities and people. We can use the time to connect with friends and family or engage in hobbies, activities and exercise.3 Here’s a quick rundown of ideas to help put some space between the negative news and your well-being.
Tips to boost your digital defenses:
- Pare it down. Some people try scaling back their browsing or viewing—say, cutting back by an hour or 10%. For others, quitting cold turkey gives a reset. Take a day off or even a week. Then, build back to what feels manageable.
- Put it away during mealtimes. Power down your tech or TV and savor the flavors in front of you. If you have company, use the time to connect about a topic that brings good feelings to the table. Remember the saying, “Hang up and hang out.”
- Turn off notifications. These pings distract your focus and draw you into news and information. You can control these settings to turn them off entirely or set them up on a schedule that works for you.
- Schedule self-care breaks. Add them to your calendar, set a timer, or simply make the time to step away from viewing or scrolling habits. Use time for activities, exercise, hobbies, mindful meditation or connecting with family and friends.
- Skip the negative sources. Stop going to channels or sites that leave you emotionally charged or drained. Unsubscribe from newsletters or emails with a negative focus or point of view.
- Seek out good news. Believe it or not, there are good news stories out there! But if you’d prefer to skip the search, reflect on something good that happened during your day. Share that positivity with someone else.
- Steer clear at bedtime. When you watch or browse at night, any emotions aroused by those stories can keep you up at night. Instead, power down your tech and make your bedtime routine all about the things that relax you for a good night’s sleep.
We create our daily routines. They’re easy to set up, and we can take steps to change them. We do have some control over the amount of news and information that we encounter. By limiting our exposure to these inputs, we have more time, quiet space and a more realistic perspective on the events in our world.
Online health resources
Have questions about how to strengthen your mental health? We can help. At Teladoc Health, we’ve made mental healthcare more accessible so that you don’t have to wait weeks for an appointment. With a virtual appointment, you can speak with a practitioner right from your home, your office or wherever you’re most comfortable. We’re here to help you get started today!
Published September 7, 2023