How to avoid 'news anxiety'

This article was first published on 16 April 2020.

Anxiety is a normal, human feeling of fear or panic, and it’s something that comes and goes with stressful situations in our lives.

Feeling scared or worried at times like this is therefore perfectly understandable, but it’s important to think about your own wellbeing when you’re staying informed. Right now, it’s difficult to get away from the news. We normally might be able to take a break and feel calmer, but when so much is changing it feels that much harder.

What does anxiety feel like?

There are a number of physical and psychological symptoms that accompany anxiety. They include a racing heart, sweating more than usual, shallow or quick breathing, feeling dizzy, on edge, overwhelmed and having trouble sleeping. All of us will experience these symptoms at some point in our lives and maybe more so as we adapt to the changes that are happening at the moment. But if the news is making it worse, or you are feeling overwhelmed constantly, you might need to take some steps to look after yourself.

What can I do to ease anxiety over the news?

Try limiting your exposure by only checking the news at certain points during the day or only reading updates from reputable sites such as government websites. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings during this time as well. It's okay to be affected by what’s going on – try to talk to people you trust to help you make sense of things. It might help to remember that things are incredibly strange at the moment and that the world’s media are extremely focussed on this issue. Taking a break from what is going on is necessary for all of us, and you don’t need to feel like you have to be aware of every change that is happening.

It’s important to take a break from the news

Impact of social media

Social media is a great way to stay in touch with people but constant news updates on your feed could also become overwhelming. You can set timers to limit how long you spend on social media or only go on at certain times of the day. It’s important to remember you are in control of what you see on your feed and you can mute or unfollow accounts that make you feel more worried at this time.

Set a timer to limit how long you spend on social media

Find other distractions

If you are finding it hard not to think about the news, try to plan some activities that you enjoy and which will take your mind off things. That could be baking, reading, taking an online exercise class, journaling or video chatting with friends and family.

Plan activities to take your mind off the news.

By Deirdre Kehoe, Director of Training and Services at YoungMinds.

If you need support

You should always tell someone about the things you’re worried about. You can tell a friend, parent, guardian, teacher, or another trusted adult. If you're struggling with your mental health, going to your GP can be a good place to start to find help. Your GP can let you know what support is available to you, suggest different types of treatment and offer regular check-ups to see how you’re doing.

If you’re in need of in-the-moment support you can contact Childline, where you can speak to a counsellor. Their lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There are more links to helpful organisations on BBC Action Line.

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