With all of the information that is available on social media channels and news outlets, it is easy to let time pass as you keep scrolling. Then walk away feeling unsure, scared, or confused. If you relate, read on to answer three questions that will help you stay informed while also taking care of your mental and emotional health.
When a major world event happens, it becomes clear just how much the 24-hour news cycle can produce. With all of the information that is available on social media channels and news outlets, it is easy to let time pass as you keep scrolling and up feeling unsure, scared, or confused. If you relate, read on to answer three questions that will help you stay informed while also taking care of your mental and emotional health.
1) Where is your news coming from?
During the Zika virus outbreak in 2016, researchers found that those who read more about the virus on social media reported an increased awareness of their own risk of contracting the virus.1 When those people sought out information from traditional media (such as a newspaper), they were more likely to engage in protective behaviors.
Key Takeaway: Using social media as your only news source may increase your anxiety more so than traditional media outlets such as newspaper and television.
2) How much news are you consuming?
The amount of media consumed matters and can impact our perceptions of stress. People who consume more media during major events or public health threats tend to experience adverse mental health and acute stress. 2
Key Takeaway: Stay informed but be mindful of how much time you’re spending scrolling through the news. Ask yourself: “Do I have enough information to make informed choices?” If the answer is yes, unplug. Another option is to set a timer for the amount of time you will spend seeking out and reading news. This can add time back to your day and improve your emotional and mental wellbeing.
3) How do you feel while receiving news?
While you’re receiving news, how do you feel? Your body is very good at adapting to perceptions of stress, and that can manifest itself in physical tension. For instance: If your jaw is clenched, your shoulders are tight, or your leg is bouncing.
Key Takeaway: Try a body scan! Next time you’re reading the news or scrolling through social media for updates, check in using a body scan:
- Start by bringing your attention to your body.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. With each exhale, try to physically relax a little bit more.
- Notice your face and any tension that exists. Is your jaw clenched? Are your eyebrows raised? Release the tension by softening your face and lowering your gaze.
- Notice your hands … are they tense or tight? Allow them to soften. Check in with your shoulders and arms. Try lowering your shoulders and releasing tension.
- Notice your neck. Roll it around gently and then let it be soft.
- Observe any tension in your legs, and then imagine that tension evaporating and leaving behind only feelings of softness and peace.
- Take a few deep breaths and sink into deeper feelings of relaxation.
- When you’re ready, open your eyes and ask yourself if you would like to return to the news or do something else.
It’s important to stay informed, and it’s also important to prioritize your mental wellbeing. It’s OK to unplug for a bit and revisit news at a later time. There is power in recognizing when something is more damaging than it is helpful to you in any given moment.
 Chan, M. P. S., Winneg, K., Hawkins, L., Farhadloo, M., Jamieson, K. H., & Albarracín, D. (2018). Legacy and social media respectively influence risk perceptions and protective behaviors during emerging health threats: A multi-wave analysis of communications on Zika virus cases. Social Science & Medicine, 212, 50-59.
 Holman, E. A., Garfin, D. R., & Silver, R. C. (2014). Media’s role in broadcasting acute stress following the Boston Marathon bombings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(1), 93-98.