Information overload is a real thing, and with a 24-hour news cycle, it can be easy to get caught up in the often negative themes of reporting. While being informed can be a responsible thing for people of all ages to do, too much news can be bad for your mental health even in the best of times. Find out more about the potential negative aspects of binging news and get some tips for finding the right balance for yourself.
According to the American Psychological Association, even during a time when national or global crisis isn't part of the news cycle, more than half of all American adults experience stress when watching the news. For many, it's enough stress to lead to poor sleep or anxiety.
The impact of too much news isn't just on your mental health. According to some studies, long-term stress can damage your physical health.
But Americans of all ages are still plugged in to constant news sources — even those that admit that the news causes them stress. Around 10 percent of Americans say they check the news every hour, and 1 in 5 say they constantly check social media to find out what's going on.
Why would people do something they know causes them extra worry and stress? Many times, it comes down to a fear that if you're not tuned in, you'll miss out. And if you miss out, it might be something important. When crisis looms in your area or nationally, that feeling can increase. You need to know what's going on so you can take appropriate action or at least be prepared, right?
That's a perfectly logical and sensible position to take whether you're a senior in an assisted living apartment, a parent in a single-family home or a college student in a dorm. But you can know what's going on without letting the news cycle overtake your life or mental health.
Here are some tips for finding a good balance.
Seniors may remember a time when most news was received via the local or national paper and the nightly news. Journalism runs a bit wilder these days, and you can get news 24 hours a day from a variety of television and streaming channels, blogs, websites and social media. And you might have noticed that not all this news is accurate news. Journalistic integrity is not typically a requirement for someone writing on a blog or social site, and even seemingly reputable news sources may jump the gun on information or spin it in ways that make the truth harder to discover.
Find a few sources you feel confident in and consider sticking with those to stay informed.
One nightly news program, one morning program and 15 minutes of cruising the internet in the middle of the day may be all you need to stay informed. And for some people, even that might feel like too much. Find the formula of time and news type that works for you.
If you're already dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, any amount of news can be a lot to deal with. If you know that news — especially in a time when the reporting is going to be centered on a certain type of issue or crisis — could be a trigger for issues you're dealing with, consider staying away from it as much as possible
Not taking in news directly from media sources doesn't mean you can't stay informed. You can ask a trusted friend or neighbor to let you know what the most important talking points of the day were, for example. If you go with this tactic, try to pick someone who can provide the information in an accurate way that doesn't dramatize it. One reason the news can lead to increased anxiety and stress is the drama and emotion that can be injected into the stories.
While it's always a good idea to stay as informed as you're able without wrecking your mental or physical health, seniors who reside in an assisted living community do experience some benefits in this area. At Autumn View Gardens, there are staff members who are tasked with understanding exactly what's going on in the world and making decisions to help keep the entire community safe and appropriately informed. As part of an assisted living community, you aren't alone, and you don't have to weather any storm or event alone.
Whether the news is simply generally stressful or a crisis is looming, know that you have the support of caring staff who have your best interests in mind.
Bethesda Foundaion is not associated with the Bethesda Health Group of St. Louis, MO.