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Staying Calm When the News is On

March 1, 2020 George Abitante

I'm learning to stay calm when news coverage makes me anxious. Over the past few weeks, I've been following the news about coronavirus somewhat regularly, so that I'm up to date on what's going on. There are some pros and cons to doing this, and while it seems practical to stay well-informed, it can also be stressful. While I do think it's important to be knowledgeable about events like this, there is a limit to how helpful that knowledge is. 

Especially with something frightening like coronavirus, it is challenging to find the right balance of consuming and avoiding the news to stay calm. This can be true for other areas of life as well -- how much time do you spend understanding an issue, and when do you decide you know enough? I think anxiety tends to make us look for more information than we actually need, so deciding to stop checking for information is especially difficult with anxiety. So what can we do to achieve some sort of balance? 

Maintaining Boundaries to Stay Calm About the News Is Difficult

The intuitive next step is to establish some boundaries that restrict how often you engage with the content you're worried about, specifically staying calm over news that feels threatening. However, it can be difficult to actually maintain such boundaries, even when we recognize the benefits of doing so. Successful management of how much information we take in requires an understanding of how we respond to stressors and making intervening steps to help us keep boundaries in place even when we don't want to maintain them. Below, I share three ways I try to make it easier for me to maintain healthy boundaries. 

Coping Plan to Stay Calm When the News Creates Anxiety

  1. Make a schedule. This may sound intuitive, but I find it's easier to use my boundaries when I don't have to think about when to use them. With coronavirus, for example, it can be good to set certain days when you will check for information. This could range from once a week to three times a day, it really depends on what feels right to you. The important thing is to identify a frequency that helps you feel healthier. 
  2. Identify and track triggers. Having a schedule is well and good, but it will be difficult to maintain without an understanding of the stressors that lead you to look for information too frequently in the first place. After you've made your schedule, keep track of the situations that make you feel like you need to check the news. Don't worry if you don't stick to your schedule at this point, this stage is all about collecting information about your behaviors. After a week of tracking, look back and see what situations preceded times where you really wanted to (or did) break from your schedule. A trend in the types of situations will likely emerge, and this will help you with step three.
  3. Develop alternate behaviors. Once you've identified the situations that can trigger your information-gathering, you can start to replace your typical response with a different one. In the case of coronavirus, it's likely fears of getting sick that prompt you to check for information more frequently. In those instances, it may be useful to instead do something that is likely to help you stay healthy. This could be wiping down the doorknobs in your home, or washing your hands, or even making a healthy smoothie. Regardless of what you choose, it should be something that alleviates your concerns without causing additional problems. 

If you find you're spending too much time worrying about the news and checking for new information too often, the tips above can help. While I do believe in staying well-informed, it's also important to find a balance that's best for your mental health. I hope these tips help you over the coming weeks.

Share what you do to stay calm despite the news in the comments below. 

Tags: calm news

APA Reference
Abitante, G. (2020, March 1). Staying Calm When the News is On, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 11 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2020/3/staying-calm-when-the-news-is-on



Author: George Abitante

George received his Master's degree in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern University and is pursuing his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Vanderbilt University. Find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @AbitanteGeorge.

Lizanne Corbit
March, 4 2020 at 2:11 pm

In an age of largely fear-based news, this is such an important conversation to have. I love your suggestion to identify triggers and to also take it a step more and develop alternate behaviors. We can't simply choose to stick our heads in the sand and be uninformed, we have to be aware, but there are ways we can do this that still protects our mental and emotional well being. Thank you for sharing!

March, 4 2020 at 8:13 pm

Hi Lizanne,
I absolutely agree! Finding that balance is tricky, and you're right that avoiding the news altogether is not a tenable solution.
George

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