News Anxiety Is Real—Here’s How to Stay Informed of Current Events Without Going Crazy

Is the breaking news breaking us?

By Jenn Rose Smith
camille styles at home office desk, phone, workspace

While we understand the importance of being informed, the unending news cycle can be emotionally draining and downright exhausting. After the past year and a half, just seeing a breaking news alert pop up on my phone can start panic-induced heart palpitations. Yes, news anxiety is real. In fact, Therapist, Dr. Steven Stosny even coined a term for it: headline stress disorder. If you’re also nodding your head in agreement upon reading this, then we invite you to join us as we aim to seek out healthy ways to deal with the emotional side effects of consuming news media.

But is it possible to be an informed, up-to-date person who cares about what’s going on in the world without losing your mind? Integrative Medicine Physician Ashley Maltz, MD. says yes. And she assures me that staying sane doesn’t mean squashing out bad feelings or learning to become less emotional about the news we’re consuming either. And it certainly doesn’t mean putting our heads in the sand and avoiding the news altogether.

The secret is to become more mindful and strategic about how we’re consuming news, to give ourselves a healthy space to react to it, and honoring whatever emotions happen as a result.

Read on to discover Ashley’s insight and tips on how to stay informed while protecting your good vibes, too.

listening to music on phone, BIPOC

Tell us a little about your background, Ashley. What makes you an expert in your field?

I’m a Board-Certified Internal and Integrative Medicine Physician. I’ve studied health, wellness and various healing practices for the last 16 years. In my private practice in downtown Austin, I use natural means of achieving health with patients as much as possible and I balance that approach with any medications a patient may be taking or needing. In addition to holistic primary care, I’ve had extensive training in medical acupuncture, mind-body medicine, natural chronic pain management, clinical nutrition and the use of herbs and supplements for a variety of medical conditions. I’m always learning and growing in order to serve the needs of my patients and those of the general public.

Do you believe it’s possible to stay informed of current events without fueling negative emotions and feelings?

I do. In fact, that’s how I live. I stay informed of current affairs, yet don’t delve into the heaviness they create for too long.

I allow myself to feel sad, angry or frustrated in the moment, then redirect myself into a place of gratitude and calmness.

I truly believe this is the only way we can both stay aware of current issues and stay calm within our bodies and minds.

Do you know some highly informed people, who are also relaxed and positive? If so, what are their best habits we can learn from? 

I sure do. They’re people who have removed themselves (at least partially) from social media, people who don’t watch TV news (or TV for that matter) and people who do lots of self care (meaning they take extra time to decompress from their day regularly.) They also don’t over schedule their lives, leaving plenty of leisure time for themselves and loved ones. They enjoy physical activity and regular meditation. These people may not be 100% up-to-date on current events, but they’re well networked and eventually find out about happenings around the world… albeit, a bit more organically.

Maltz Shares 6 Ways to Consciously Consume News:

straw bag, phone, purse

Set aside a designated time for news. 

When you carve out a designated space in your schedule to digest news information, you should also give yourself time to reflect and respond to it. Really feel the emotions you have about current events. If you don’t, you may find yourself dealing with it throughout the day. Equally important is developing the skill of being able to “redirect” yourself to a calm, grateful place before going on with your day.

Curate your media stream.

It’s good to remember that the “news” is a business, and some media outlets thrive on playing up disaster, conflict, and scandal. Look to reputable outlets (like NPR) who strive to deliver bipartisan news in a professional manner. It’s also important to make sure that you’re consuming positive stories and information on a regular basis as well. MSN even has an online section for good news—uplifting stories that will leave you feeling inspired. Consider consuming your news via email. There are several newsletter that distill the most pressing news items into one daily newsletter. I find this to be a great way to consume news consciously and not be beholden to the constant alerts and breaking news notifications throughout the day that can shift your mood and distract your focus, and most often in a negative way. Katie Couric’s Wake Up Call is a great example.

Be mindful of your social media use.

People post their reactions to news on social media almost immediately. It’s wise to limit social media use if you respond to these reactions strongly. Unplugging from social media daily (turning off notifications) is advised. Also consider unfollowing or “seeing less” of contacts who tend to upset you.

Do NOT watch news before bed.

This can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol and keep you up at night. Turning off screens at least one hour before bed helps your brain know it’s time for sleep. And proper amounts of sleep help you process information, handle stress, and live a healthful life.

Get outside.

Studies show that we need nature in our lives. Just spending 20 minutes in a park can make you happier. So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed with current events, go for a walk, hike, or get your feet in the grass or dirt (also known as grounding) to redirect your emotions and uplift your spirits. Plus, the sun provides the added benefits of vitamin D—a hormone needed to maintain a healthy body and make you happier. Studies have shown a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. Dr. Steve Gundry recommends 5,000 IUs a day of vitamin D3.

Consider meditation.

Meditation helps calm the racing thoughts that bad news can invoke. Start by paying attention to your breath or focusing on a calming phrase like, “I am calm and peaceful”. Repeat it to yourself over and over while in a relaxing position. Your body and mind will thank you. Try these three simple breathwork exercises to keep you calm and manage stress.