Wellness Wednesday – How to manage ‘Headline Anxiety’

Without bad news, we would have no need for the media and so it is in their interest to report on all the doom and gloom happening in the world, which has been heightened during the pandemic. With the world full of uncertainty, it’s understandable that the news may trigger heightened feelings of stress and anxiety. There are many headlines and media opinions out there that may impact your mental health, from new coronavirus variants, to natural disasters and even the recent news about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry speaking out against “The Firm” who run the Royal Family – any news in the media can affect your mental health.

Meghan Markle shared her experiences of mental ill health due to racism and her character assassination by the UK press in the interview with Oprah that aired on Monday 8th March. This inspired us to think about some strategies that people could use to help cope with media headline anxiety.  

Be mindful of people’s opinions

The media publishes thousands of stories and they all have different angles and agendas to grab their audiences’ attention. Everyone has different backgrounds and experiences so they will have different opinions about the stories that are published. Be mindful that not everyone will agree with you or the news, especially around sensitive subjects. We are lucky to live and a place and time where free speech is a fundamental right. Don’t forget that everyone is entitled to their opinions, so listen, respect and gather reliable information to help you form your own thoughts.

Understand it’s normal

Headline anxiety can be very common during periods of uncertainty and this can make you feel more worried than usual. Keep telling yourself that it’s normal to feel like that and remember to talk through your anxieties with your loved ones, a mental health first aider or a trained professional. Bottling up your feeling will only add to your stress container and, if you don’t find a healthy way to empty it, it may overflow. Talking about your worries is a healthy way to empty your stress container.  

Limit your news consumption

Smartphones have given us the technical advances for the news to be available 24/7 literally at our fingertips. As great as it is to have the apps and notifications, there is a lot of fake news and click bait on the internet and it can lead to ‘doom scrolling’, which is an obsessive habit of consuming news and information. It’s good to have an interest in the current events but try to limit your news consumption on news sites, only use reliable sources and be aware of how long you’re spending consuming the news.

Limit your social media consumption

Social media is also another medium that can give you information overload. It intensifies the news and not all of it is true as it’s not directly from the news source. You also see a range of differing opinions on your news feed that can cause stress. Make sure you give yourself a break, limit your time and only read from reliable sources. Don’t be afraid to unfollow or block something or someone that isn’t adding value to you.

Manage your time

It’s important in these hard times that we have hobbies to keep us busy and help our mental health. Create a healthy routine to maintain a good work-life balance. Remember to include off-screen hobbies and activities to get away from social media and the news for a while. By having a regular exercise schedule, sufficient sleep pattern, proper nutrition and hobbies, this can combat stress and reduce anxiety.

The media tend to report on the negative news rather than positive, so remember the stories being reported are probably rare and won’t happen very often. It may be trending but it’s unlikely that events like this will affect you directly.

We offer the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) qualification at Marshall Centre. 50% of our colleagues have completed the training with the aim to have 100% qualified by the middle of the year. Mental Health First Aid trains people to spot signs of someone experiencing a mental health issue, listen without judgement, offer initial support and comfort and advice on further professional support if needed. Work-related stress remains the number one cause for absenteeism, which costs UK employers up to £45 billion per year. Investing in MHFA training will ensure that your people feel safe and able to discuss their mental health and feel supported by their colleagues, which will reduce absenteeism due to stress.

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