We are inundated with information. Staying informed today involves more than simply turning on our TVs; it’s on our phones, in our social feeds, and likely popping up in push notifications to your lock screen. With such a constant influx of information, it's perhaps unsurprising that there are many signs you need a break from the news cycle that are definitely worth paying attention to. If you feel like the news is stressing you out, you aren’t wrong and you aren’t alone.
For nearly half of Americans, the election was a source of stress in their lives. It likely goes without saying, but for many, that stress didn’t end on November 8. A new report from the American Psychological Association found that two-thirds of Americans say they’re stressed about the future of our country. The report found that remains true regardless of whether you’re a republican or a democrat. “The stress we're seeing around political issues is deeply concerning, because it's hard for Americans to get away from it,” said Katherine C. Nordal, APA executive director for professional practice, in the report. We are constantly surrounded by news and, in turn, constantly reminded of the things we're stressed out about.
Stress can manifest itself in many ways. However, it’s important to note what constant news will not do, regardless of how much you are consuming: There is no evidence that news will cause conditions you were not already predisposed to, like anxiety or depression. It can, however, certainly amplify those feelings.
So, if the news has you feeling some type of way and you’re mentally checking “yes” to some of the things below, give yourself some news-less time. Go outside. Look at a dog. Do something other than obsessively refresh Twitter.
Here are seven signs you need to take a break from the news cycle.
1. You’re Feeling More Depressed Than Usual
Again, depressing news cannot alone cause clinical depression. However, chronic stress is associated with a higher risk of depression. If you’re having trouble coping with constant stress, it may manifest itself in depressive moods. While not the same or as severe as clinical depression, bad news can, frankly, bum you out. Take that as a sign to take a break. Like Lin-Manuel Miranda says, “I think it’s important to eat your vegetables and I think it’s important to eat your dessert.” Don’t forget to feed your brain and soul something sweet.
2. You’re Feeling More Anxious Than Usual
Just to be super clear, again: There is no evidence of news, on its own, causing anxiety disorders. But if you are prone to anxiety, stressful news can amplify that. Stress is something pretty much everyone experiences to a degree. One side effect of stress can be feeling anxious. In addition to taking a break from the news, try one of these breathing techniques to reduce your feelings of anxiety.
3. Your Sleep Schedule Is Off
Sleep and stress have something of a symbiotic relationship. According to a report from APA, adults with high stress are more likely to say they are not getting enough sleep. Additionally, adults who get less than eight hours of sleep are more likely to experience symptoms of stress. You’re stressed so you can’t sleep, and you’re not sleeping so you’re more stressed. If that sounds familiar, try one of these tricks to help you fall asleep.
4. You’re Getting More Headaches
According to the Mayo Clinic, you’re more likely to experience headaches when you’re stressed. Instead of popping another ibuprofen when you find yourself getting a headache while scrolling news on Twitter, start by setting down the phone and giving your eyes and brain a break.
5. Your Worries Are Spiraling
In an interview with the Huffington Post, psychologist Dr. Graham Davey said, “Negative news can affect your own personal worries. Viewing negative news means that you’re likely to see your own personal worries as more threatening and severe, and when you do start worrying about them, you’re more likely to find your worry difficult to control and more distressing than it would normally be.” When your mind is racing and your feel your worries start to spiral, take that as a sign you need a news cycle break.
6. You’re More Irritable
Increased irritability can be a side-effect of stress. In a study following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, researcher and professor Alison Holman told NPR, “people who exposed themselves to six or more hours of media daily actually reported more acute stress symptoms than did people who were directly exposed — meaning they were at the site of the bombings.” News can make us sad and frustrated in a measurable way. Stay informed, but don’t bombard your brain with more than it can handle at a time.