News Induced Anxiety -- Tips for Coping and Managing


Is the news leaving you feeling anxious and scared?  Does it feel like the world is not safe?  You are not alone.  You can't change the news but there are some things you can do to cope and manage the anxiety.

Part of the problem is that news is a business for consumers who respond to entertainment.  It is designed to hook us and make us want to read more.  Often, headlines twist the news with such sensationalism and drama that it leaves us feeling we are in immediate danger.  Throw in a massive tragedy like the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, and that anxiety skyrockets.  The news allows us to witness people's pain in extreme detail, 24/7 if we choose to.  Our feelings of safety plummet, our anxiety escalates, and we feel like the world is not safe.  These feelings make sense but they also give a lot of power to our news sources and people like this cruel human who did something truly evil. 

Take a deep breath, look around, notice what's here and now.  More than likely, in this very moment, you are safe.  You are supported. For right now, just notice how safe you are.  

If you are struggling with news induced anxiety, set boundaries to protect yourself.  These days, you download a news app to your phone and your phone will alert you all day long to every horrible thing that happens in the world.  I strongly suggest turning off some or all of those push notifications.  They are not necessary or helpful.  Limit and control your exposure to the news.  TV News is designed to keep you engaged with constant hooks demanding your attention.  Watching news stories with these built-in hooks can feel like an emotional roller coaster.  Get off.  Read the news.  Choose less sensationalized news sources such as NPR.  Consider turning the TV off altogether.  Even if something horrible has happened in the world, you do not need to immerse yourself in it all day every day.  It's too much.  Setting limits on how much time you spend even just reading these stories is a healthy self-protective boundary.

And when something horrible happens like what happened this week in Las Vegas, it's okay to feel sadness around it.  Grief.  Make space for those feelings.  When I read about a local family who lost a mother there last week, I felt pain.  To think that a family woke up one morning dealing with the same daily struggles as most people and went to bed that night with a loss that can never be undone is heartbreaking and so hard to come to grips with.  It hurts.  And so many more families suffering so much.  It's painfully sad and it's okay to feel that sadness.    

But that next step that some of you may take with it -- I can't go to concerts anymore, I can't go to work, I can't send my kids to school because bad things happen-- slow down.  Anxiety can distort reality.  For every concert like the one in Vegas, there are millions upon millions where nothing ever happened at all.  For every cruel human like the shooter in Vegas, there are millions upon millions of good, kind people.  Just look at the hundreds upon hundreds of people out there right now taking care of those who have suffered.  That's all true too.  Our brains distort when we feel traumatized and afraid.  We can take that concert in Vegas and catastrophize it into a world where nobody is safe.  But there are far more loving, kind safe humans than there are cruel ones.  

Take a moment and look around -- you will see it.  Look for the kindness in humanity -- pay attention to all of the good people like you who are helping and sending prayers, love and warmth.  

If you are feeling news induced anxiety, set boundaries around how you interact with the news, take time to breathe and be gentle with yourself.  You may need some extra self-care whether that's exercise, time with friends or a hot bath.  If your anxiety continues to mount, reach out for support.  When traumatic events happen in the world, it sometimes opens up our own traumatic wounds.  Having someone to help you process and work through the anxiety and feelings that come up is helpful.  Getting support is not weakness, it's strength.  Therapy can help.