Staying informed and looking after our mood: how can we stop the news affecting our mental health?

Many of us want to keep up-to-date with world events, local news and how current affairs might affect us, especially during the pandemic. However, it can sometimes feel like there’s too much ‘bad news’ and it can be difficult to deal with uncertainty, upsetting stories or feeling helpless to make a difference. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious.

It’s easy to access the latest news 24 hours a day and keep up-to-date. We can watch the TV news on repeat or hear the radio news on the hour every hour. We might scour the internet or newspapers for the latest information or search for posts from people who claim to be ‘at the scene’. But how does this constant news feed affect our mental wellbeing?

If you notice your mood feels lower or you’re more anxious after watching, reading or listening to the news, it might be helpful to think about changing how you access news stories. You could ask yourself:

  • What are the best sources of information (most reliable, easy to access, short and to the point)
  • How often do I need to be updated?
  • What news updates do I want?

If you do feel overwhelmed, it’s OK to turn off your news feed for a bit. In the case of the pandemic, we need to know about current restrictions or guidance in order to keep us safe. That doesn’t mean we have to listen to every discussion about case numbers or read opinions online.

You can decide how to access the information you need – following NHS Leeds on Twitter, for example, or watching the news once a day on your preferred TV channel.

When it comes to general news stories, it’s true we can feel we’re missing out if we can’t join in a conversation or have no idea what everyone is Tweeting about. Again, you can decide how, when and how often to have the news in your life and whether you need to take a break.

Checking in with ourselves when there’s lots of worrying news is a good way to see if we need a break. How are we feeling – emotionally and physically? Stressed, stomach churning, tearful? Maybe it’s time to take a break for a while.

News, opinions, updates and more may be available 24/7, but we can choose to:

  • Limit news updates to once a day.
  • Find inspiring social media accounts to follow.
  • Subscribe to magazines or email newsletters that share good news.
  • Share kindness online, by phone, email or in person.
  • Help organisations supporting causes we care about.

We can also unfollow accounts on social media, not pick up a newspaper every day, turn off the TV or radio if we need to or move away from conversations that we don’t want to be part of. Making a choice about how we consume the news can help us feel more in control and look after our wellbeing.