psychology

The News & Your Mental Health

How many of you avoid the news because it makes you feel anxious? You are not alone, lots of people think this way. But the news is essential. The role of a journalist is to help the public understand what’s going on. Because let’s face it, experts don’t always make it simple.

Currently, I am studying journalism as part of my masters at university. And the news doesn’t make me anxious. You might say it’s easy for me to say keep up to date. But I think it’s a matter of how you look at it.

Watching news keeps me informed on developments locally and in the world. I know that I need this information to make decisions about my own behaviour.

Locus of Control

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Locus of control is the degree to which you feel you have control of your life. An internal locus of control means you feel that what you do matters. Whereas an external locus of control is different. It means you think that external factors dictate your life.

Now, of course, there are external factors that have an influence on our lives. These might be public policy, pandemics, money etc. But you also have a lot of control. Research shows that the best predictor of happiness is an internal locus of control.

Where the news is concerned, lots of it seems like it’s out of our control. Everyone is talking about it. You can’t even go online in peace. It’s happening all around us, and there’s nothing we can do.

Except there is.

Different Types of News

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The first thing I would recommend is to find the reporters you like. Have a few because different outlets report the news differently. And they may also have different agendas. A variety of news reporters gives you a more rounded understanding of the story.

There are also many ways to get news. You can watch live news or watch snippets from social media. You can read a paper or articles online. It all depends on your tolerance.

Remember, you need to think critically about the media you consume. A reporter should say where their information comes from. If they don’t, read or watch someone else. And if you are sceptical check their sources. Also, not all sources are good sources. Ask yourself:

  • Is this source an expert?
  • Do they have reasons other than the truth to say what they say?
  • Are there other experts that disagree?
  • Do I know all sides of the argument so I can make the most informed decisions?

Boundaries

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The most important part about the news you get is that you are in control. You don’t have to have the news on in the background all day. Sit down and watch the six o’clock news. Or watch the 5 minutes reports posted by news stations to Facebook and Twitter.

Personally, I keep my notifications on because I study journalism. But there isn’t any reason for you to have ten news apps all with notifications on. Switch them off and put them in a folder off your home screen. That way you can check them when you want to.

Use What You Learn

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Regularly I hear public health officials worldwide saying the best defence against Covid-19 is washing our hands, wearing a mask and social distancing.

These are the actions you take. We hear about companies that aren’t environmentally friendly, we can choose to buy from somewhere else. When it comes to elections, the leaders we choose will determine the policies that dictate our lives. News helps us track what their past behaviour has been. That way, we can decide if we want them to continue to lead us.

Lastly, the news helps highlight to us what is important to us. Over the last month, the events in the US have made a lot of us consider our own democracies. And no matter what, you are part of all that.

Personally Speaking

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I haven’t had much of a chance to be on social media today. Saturdays are busy for me between housework, blogging and coursework. This evening either 6pm or 9pm, I will watch the news. Afterwards, I may choose a story and read a bit more online. I may not.

I think what protects me from news anxiety is that I feel I have a lot of control. I know that if I am aware of what’s going on around me, I can make better decisions. If I don’t know who to vote for, I know what the current government has done. This is a good indicator of their values, and I can decide if they match mine.

If I’m scared about the pandemic, I know I can follow public health advice. And while it cannot totally protect me, it can reduce my risk of contracting the virus. These are actions I can take because I kept up to date on the information provided by experts.

I don’t have to agree with how something is reported. And if I don’t, I can go get more information. These are things I can do.

And you can do them too. Remember, everything in moderation. And while I have your attention, support local journalism.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments.

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