“News can damage your health.” That’s what I am told by people who have quit news. I have not yet quit, but I have changed the way I consume news. And I call it news hygiene. Here is why.
Before I go any further let me say loud and clear, I don’t take good journalism for granted. I appreciate the hard and dedicated work and the fact that journalists and support staff can risk (and lose) their lives for news. Yet, I also have to be mindful of what news can do to my health.
News and my Emotions
People who stop watching the news, tell me they do it for one or more of three reasons. They believe news is predominantly negative, frightening, biased and / or untrue.
I know that news impacts the way I feel. It can be uplifting, up-setting, de-pressing or leaving me fearful. The increasingly instantaneous delivery of news makes for good and gory sound bites and pictures.
Stories about human beings, countries, nations, continents (you name it) disrupting, threatening, hurting and killing is upsetting. And I don’t want to be upset.
I detest being subjected to sudden and unannounced details of despicable acts. And in the past I have complained. The reply I received stated that such detail is part of balanced news reporting. I don’t agree. For the sake of such news and editorial rules I (like no doubt many others) end up traumatised – and I do not use this word lightly.
I stopped watching television nine years ago, when we moved onto a boat. Since then my main news media are the radio and online news sites. I don’t watch films online and news videos rarely. I have my favourite channels, news bulletins, programmes and presenters, who educate, challenge and entertain.
Though I am a visual person, I do prefer the spoken word where news is concerned. Because upsetting news will impact me less deeply and for a shorter period of time, if it is not visual. Therefore, watching the news is not really for me, and I avoid it, if I can.
My news hygiene
- I no longer fill periods of in-between appointments, on public transport etc with checking the news. I don’t want too much news clutter.
- On the App of my main news provider I created my own news agenda.
- If I read news online, I prefer a big screen and avoid using my cell / mobile phone.
- The biggest change I have introduced is regards the time of day I consume news.
In the past I would switch on the radio as soon as I get up and I would listen to a popular UK morning news programme. Recently I have started to delay the switch of the button. More often than not do I do that now at least 30-60 minutes after I get up. And often then I ease my brain and heart into the day with some classical music first.
Listening to the news first thing feels like draining a run down battery of even more energy. I need more time to recharge, especially if I worked the evening before, or have been doing a lot of writing or video work. Then my emotional, mental and creative energy is low. Then the spoken word of any kind and news in particular requires energy I do not have.
If I start my day too soon with news, this will frame my day. If I end my day with news, then this may frame my evening and night. The mostly bad news I hear about makes it harder to fall asleep and have a restful sleep. Sometimes scraps of news find their way into my dreams and it is unnerving. As part of my sleep hygiene I avoid news at least 30 – 60 minutes before turning in. The same goes definitely and especially for personal news via other media (eg email, calls or social media).
Why I won’t quit news
Quitting news would make me feel isolated and not an active part of society. I also would not want to miss out on information that may impact our lives and that I need to respond to carefully or quickly.
But I also know from experience, there are times in my life when news plays a more inferior part – during times of illness, bereavement, stress and such. Because then my world becomes a lot smaller.
News and healthy choices
I am a passionate advocate for understanding and looking after our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing. If I feel news can damage my health, then there is no shame in taking that on board and doing something about it.
I don’t think that’s self indulgence. I think that’s a smart self-care strategy.
Watch my video on why news may damage your health.
Karin Sieger is a UK-based psychotherapist and writer specialising in personal transitions, endings, making peace and the emotional impact of cancer, for which Karin has been treated herself. She does her writing on her orange houseboat in London. Karin posts regularly on her website KarinSieger.com. You can sign up for her Newsletter, follow her on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook or connect via LinkedIn.