Technology allows us to be tapped into the goings-on of the world at all times—constantly on alert for what's happening at any magnitude and getting push notifications for major events. But this continuous exposure to news has the effect of wearing us down and having even more serious ramifications on our psyche. "With the constant barrage of news we're downloading daily, breaking news threatens to break us all," observes Ellen Hendrickson, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders.
"The sheer volume alone is unprecedented." She recently outlined how to deal with news overload in Psychology Today, proposing actionable steps to healthily handle the nonstop influx. Hendrickson notes how "the internet, a 24-hour news cycle, smartphones, and an unparalleled political climate are all conspiring to make us feel down, overwhelmed, and anxious."
Hendrickson names four major problems in today's news atmosphere: Sheer quantity, divided attention, anxiety, and anger. Without warning, we can become enveloped in what we read and hear, and with constant engagement with our phones and social media, there is little opportunity to take a break. Hendrickson proposes straightforward strategies for consuming news in a healthy way.
Designate "news time." Hendrickson advises to "make an executive decision not to use devices on certain days or at certain times of the day." She says that it will likely feel wrong at first, but the anxiety over missing something will dissipate over time.
Filter ruthlessly. When you feel like you're drowning in news, it can help to streamline your consumption. "Go through your inbox, and cancel subscriptions you don't read," Hendrickson suggests. "While we can't choose the topics or the pace of the news, we can choose how to respond," she says. "And by doing that, we can take back control."
Here's how another psychologist suggests dealing with all the overwhelming tragedy in the news.