A Guide To Staying Informed W/o Becoming Overwhelmed And Depressed

Apart from some memes and selection of Gigi Goode looks, 2020 hasn’t given us anything good. At least, that’s if we’re living life according to our news feeds (which, lbr, we are).

Between disheartening clips of bushfire-ravaged communities and panic buyers fighting over TP (literally what the fuck lol), 2020 feels weird, uncertain and downright alarming. No one reallllllllllly knows what’s happening.

I keep checking my phone: I want to be kept in the loop, especially when it comes to COVID-19 and its ever-evolving status. (Do I go to work or stay in? Is public transport safe rn? Is Idris Elba ok??? Etc.)

But after three months of seemingly negative news cycles, it’s hard not to feel defeated and overwhelmed. I’ve tried to switch off but places I usually turn to for a distraction (hiii reddit) are no longer Coronavirus-free.

So how do we keep informed without feeling shit? And when is the right and wrong time to ditch the updates?

HOW DOES THE NEWS AFFECT MY MOOD?

According to Geraldine McKay, a Sydney-based mental health social worker, as well as couple and family therapist, an infectious disease outbreak like COVID-19 can seriously affect our moods.

“Watching, listening to and reading about the news can cause us to feel anxious and/or depressed,” she says. “This public health crisis has occurred off the back of the bushfire crisis so we have all been exposed to a lot of negative news stories.”

“Research has shown that excess media exposure to coverage of stressful events can result in negative mental health outcomes. It is really important to use trusted media outlets to get the information you need, then turn them off—and advise your friends to do the same.”

But in the age of social media, switching off isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially for teens and young adults who have grown up with FB and IG as part of our daily life.

“Gen Z is the first generation to grow up as ‘digital natives’,” explains McKay. “They have also grown up in a time of greater transparency, so maybe this helps them to be desensitised to some of the negativity in the news.

“My experience of Gen Z is that they tend to use humour to downplay the seriousness of some issues which can be helpful as it allows some perspective when there is uncertainty.”

lol. Explains the memes.   

“This is not to say they don’t take it seriously—rather it’s a way of being able to stay engaged in life. Like other generations they are concerned about the world and no doubt are concerned about their health and that of other Australians.”

CAN TOO MUCH NEWS BE A BAD THING?

McKay says that an ongoing situation like COVID-19 can result in miscommunication/fake news, and cue: panic.

“Misinformation can spread quickly and easily which in turn can lead to unnecessary alarm in situations like we are currently facing.”

“The immediacy of information does make it a bit difficult to delay when you hear, see or read about stressful events. There have been some studies that indicate increased anxiety among young adults associated with time spend on social media due to negative online interactions.”

According to McKay, those prone to depression can experience an increase in negative thinking when served a barrage of negative news stories. She suggests limiting, not completely switching off.

“I would also encourage people to keep a healthy headspace by continuing to do the stuff they love; eat well, get enough sleep, stay active, keep connected, cut back on alcohol and other drugs—all these things can really help boost your mood.”

HOW CAN I BOOST MY MOOD?

Her tips:

  • Practice mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Yoga/relaxation exercises
  • Listening to music
  • Walking/other activities that involve movement

Recommended self-care apps + programs:

WHAT ABOUT IF I’M WORRIED ABOUT A FRIEND?

If you’re worried about a friend (especially one that’s self-isolating), McKay says it’s important to keep the conversation going.

“Staying connected with others is so important during periods of uncertainty.”

“Emotional distress is common when we are faced with uncertainty, and knowing this can be normalising as many people are likely feeling the same way. Knowing you are not the only one feeling this way can reduce your distress.”

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talking about it is a good place to start. Try a trusted source like a friend, family member or even your GP/mental health professional.

McKay recommends limiting our media exposure, while staying up to date about developments, by using a reliable and accurate source of health-related information. “It can help with gaining a sense of control,” she says. “Also try to keep a routine going as this can be reassuring in uncertain times.”

Still feeling really shit? Consider checking out BeyondBlue if you want some professional help.

HOW CAN I SORT FAKE NEWS FROM REAL?

 A digital literacy expert at Washington University came up with a hella easy-to-remember method for fact-checking, and according to Twitter, many have been using it to siv-out fake news stories on COVID-19.

The method is summed up with the acronym SIFT:

Stop.

Investigate the source.

Find better coverage.

Trace claims, quotes, and media to the original context.

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