Take a Break From Media, Your Mental Health Depends on It

The last 6 months has been a rollercoaster for all of us, no matter what side of any political, social, climate, weather, or personal issue we fall on the media has spotlighted it all and engaged our intimate reactions and our emotions with constant coverage across all media. It used to be that tuning in to national and international news was a choice whether it was turning on the 5 O'clock news, dialing into your talk radio station, or making a choice to read a newspaper. However, this isn't the case anymore with smart phones now serving as an extension of ourselves, we have news updates everywhere we look regardless if we had made a conscious decision to search for an update or not. It's no secret that news coverage is biased toward exposing stories that engage our anger, fears, and sympathy and instigate feuds, tensions, and discourse. After all, sensational news is the kind of news that is difficult to ignore and provokes our human nature to sympathize and feel concern for others. Sensational news sells, and is therefore, what we become bombarded with daily whether we are hoping to check twitter updates from a comedian we enjoy following, want to see our cousin's Halloween photos on facebook, or had planned to simply just text a friend and were interrupted by the "ding" of a news update. With constant updates available, it is also difficult to avoid becoming sucked into the anxiety of wanting to remain "continuously aware" and "constantly informed". It is taken for granted that just because the latest comment on the newest political scandal or most up to date analysis of the latest climate disaster is available that we should speedily consume any and every last word of it. So what if you already heard top experts give their conclusions about the latest event or social situation, someone from The Voice is now going to give their opinion!

More and more studies are becoming available that highlight the impact that constant media usage is starting to have on our mental health. Increasing rates of depression and anxiety are being correlated with media usage (Seabrook, Kern, & Rickard, 2016). When we step back, unplug and think about it of course it makes sense, how could we not become a more anxious and depressed society with all of our world's disasters are overexposed and hyper exhibited? Of course, I am not advocating for total ignorance of our national and world's problems, and I do believe in the media's critical role as the Government's watch dog so that us the people can answer calls for advocacy and grassroots movements when needed. As a society we must be informed of what's going on, I only request that we work toward becoming less over-informed in order to protect our mental health.

It's ok to take breaks from media all together, to detour away from the information highway, and detox from the surplus of sensationalism. Many people have reported great improvement in their mental well being by taking a "media-free vacation" or picking a day of the week where one avoids all media that isn't work related. It's important to make a conscious decision on how you'd like to continue to learn about current affairs, what sources you prefer obtaining the information from, and limit yourself from being overexposed by being able to identify what secondary source or opposing view-source you appreciate an analysis of current events from. This will help eliminate anxiety related to a false feeling of need to hear a breakdown of an event from every news source, advocate, famous person, and television show that exists. When we approach consuming news coverage of political, climate, social, weather, and personal issues in this way we are able to retain greater perspective of our own lives and make choices for how the current state of affairs is going to effect us, and what our role in it is. We are also able to leave more room in our minds for focusing on our own personal needs as well as remain present in our interactions at work, with loved ones, and with one another in society. We cannot predict what is going to happen next in this world of ours, but we can predict how we are going to consume the information and care for our mental wellbeing while we do it.