Managing Media Intake and Mental Health

While the news is always a somewhat tricky thing to navigate, there are currently some particularly difficult stories. With regard to ongoing concerns, the emergence of new COVID-19 variants is creating uncomfortable unknowns. And, more acutely, the Ghislaine Maxwell and Duggar trials along with the escalating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan can serve as triggers for our pain points, trauma, and mental well-being.

What’s interesting about the media is that it is important to know what is going on in our world. Foreign crises may be just as much in our interest as virus concerns on our home soil. But, with everything and everywhere there is to read, how are we supposed to manage our mental health and the day-to-day limited human capacity for engagement? Here are some suggestions.

Suggestions for Managing Media Intake & Mental Health

  1. Remember that media is a business. While we continue to hope for a world of unbiased journalism, it is still the job of news companies to make money. Whoever can create the most eye-catching (or anxiety-raising) headline is more likely to get the clicks and reads that generate the revenue. Keep the intent of headlines in mind when you are scrolling, it can help keep your perspective and anxiety in check if something sounds especially alarming. It may or may not be.
  1. Know what topics may activate trauma for you. We mentioned the Ghislaine Maxwell and Duggar trials specifically because they are tied to manipulation and sexual abuse. If these topics are a trigger for you, don’t read them. Everyone has difficult pieces of their story that can be activated by headlines and/or sound bites. There is no reason to be fully informed on situations that may inhibit your healing journey.
  1. Set limits. While we cannot silence every television we pass or block the magazines at the grocery store, we can make strong choices for our personal media intake. Almost all technology now operates on algorithms, meaning that your phone, computer, social media feeds, etc. will continue to funnel you more of whatever you are already reading. So, if you want to avoid the finer details of the latest COVID mutation, stop reading those articles for a while and click on an advertisement for a kitchen gadget. Your news feed will soon be filled with recipes and sales on Instapots until you are ready to go back to the “real world” again.
  1. Find support. Even when we understand how media works, are aware of our triggers, and set limits around our media intake, sometimes the news of the day continues to be too much. Everyone has points in their journey when what there is to read and learn about is just too much, for whatever reason. When this happens, find a (calm) friend or therapist to help you process your feelings and perception of the incoming information so you can learn to experience it in a less triggering way.

What we can learn through the media is vital. We need a way to gather information. AND, with all the advancements in tracking and algorithms, media is also designed to try to control our interests and options. May we be wise to the tactics and take steps to control what media we ingest to protect our mental well-being in these news-saturated times.

December 7, 2021. By Anne Rulo, Author, Speaker, Therapist. FB/IG/Twitter @annemrulo

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