by Dr. Yasmin Akbari
In a world where we are inundated with distressing and often traumatic current events, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by news media. Allowing ourselves to feel the shock, sadness, or pain of human tragedies can overwhelm us, limiting our capacity to complete important tasks, feel positive emotions, or be present in our environments. Many of us might find ourselves feeling desensitized to news about traumatic events or compelled to reduce our consumption of impactful information. These are natural reactions, as we must keep moving forward, completing our work, and caring for our mental health.
In our attempts to cope, we might find ourselves engaging in “compartmentalization,” a term utilized to describe the separation and containment of difficult or complex emotions, thoughts, and experiences. Compartmentalization can be adaptive in that it may allow us to set meaningful boundaries in our lives. Compartmentalization can also be a mark of resilience, providing us with the opportunity to sustain ourselves through the many roles we play at home, in the workplace, and other important facets of our lives.
Being mindful about why, when, and how much news media we consume has become increasingly important in effectively coping with feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, stress, or depression. Each of us has limits to what we can dedicate our time, attention, and energy. Compartmentalizing or boundary-setting is not only okay, but also often a requirement in ensuring appropriate care towards our mental health and wellness. Here are some helpful strategies for support in setting boundaries with news and media consumption:
- Set time limits to prevent “doom-scrolling.” It is easy to fall victim to patterns of repetitive scrolling, consuming more and more media. This not only consumes our time and attention, taking away from other important tasks, but can also foster feelings of overwhelm and fatigue. Change your device settings to create parameters that notify you when you reach temporal limits on the usage of select apps and sites.
- Avoid consuming media right before bed or first thing in the morning. Many of us bookend our days by using our devices, which can increase anxiety and stress. Furthermore, these habits can create an association between your bed and stress, interfering with sleep quality.
- Try beginning and ending your days with a gratitude exercise. You can practice keeping a journal to write three things you are grateful for each day. This expression of gratitude can improve your mood and perspective of the day and lead you to feel more grounded.”