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  • David Gordon, LCSW-R

Managing Headline Anxiety

Great article with some helpful tips and resources. How to Manage “Headline Anxiety” With breaking news constantly flooding media...

How to Manage “Headline Anxiety”

With breaking news constantly flooding media channels, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Somber stories, headlines and notifications are taking a toll on mental health in what some have dubbed headline stress disorder.

Michael Ziffra, MD, a Northwestern Medical Group psychiatrist, offers tips for avoiding triggers and helping manage headline stress.

“Non-stop stress and uncertainty leaves a mark on our mental well-being,” says Dr. Michele Nealon, Psy.D., president of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. “One remedy is to prioritize your normal routines-- predictability helps us feel we are in control and safe. In stressful times, we spend more time worrying that something bad is going to happen—and that is exhausting.”

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1. Avoid triggering topics in the news.

When a personal connection exists within the news, it can heighten the stress that you feel. If you notice certain channels or outlets cover a triggering topic to you, it might be smart to take a break from those news sources. You can also mute triggering words and phrases on certain social media platforms.

2. Limit your news consumption.

With smartphone news apps and alerts, there is a colossal amount of information available at your fingertips. It is healthy to have an interest in news and current events, but developing obsessive habits of consuming news and information can be dangerous for your mental health.

“There can sometimes be an addictive quality to it,” Dr. Ziffra says of the constant news feed. “It can be difficult for someone to let it go.” Be observant of your own tendencies in news consumption, and limit your time on news sites if you notice yourself spending a lot of time on them.

3. Be cognizant of your social media use.

Social media can intensify the effects that you feel from news and information overload. There always is some sort of new item that’s going to show up in your social media feed, which can be a problem, Dr. Ziffra says

The seemingly endless stream of content can fiercely grip your attention, making it difficult to shift your focus to other topics and events. Make sure you exhibit self-control when it comes to social media use, and consider deleting apps to give yourself a mental break.

4. Practice good stress management.

Dr. Ziffra suggests that consistent and sound stress management practices can be an easy and effective way to help mitigate news anxiety. Regular exercise, sufficient sleep and proper nutrition can all help combat stress. If you find that your phone is causing anxiety, turn it off and live unplugged for short periods of time.

5. Understand that it’s normal.

“Regardless of what you call it, it’s a very common phenomenon nowadays,” Dr. Ziffra says of anxiety from news. “We’re in very uncertain times, and times of uncertainty tend to be very anxiety-provoking for people.”

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