Anxiety and the News

“I just can’t stop being connected and informed, but it’s giving me anxiety,” a client tells me a few days ago.

“Go deep,” I reply, “I wrote an article in November describing my philosophy about going deep and I think we all need to do this to get through the scary news stories.”

She nods tentatively and asks, “How?”

We talk about how she can stay connected, but lessen her anxiety.

After our meeting, she seems to be calmer, but for how long?

I think about our conversation and wonder if my advice is comprehensive enough to have lasting impact.

I realize I need to know more on this subject and do research.

Here are my findings:

There are a number of studies and articles on the subject.

  • A 2014 national survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health found that watching, reading, or listening to the news caused people greater stress and anxiety.
  • 25% of people reporting high stress said watching, reading or listening to the news is one of their biggest daily stressors.
  • “People who exposed themselves to six or more hours of media daily actually reported more acute stress symptoms than those directly exposed to the event (Boston bombings).” – Alison Holman, Professor at UC Irvine.

What can we do to lessen anxiety?

  1. Be strategic about getting our news by limiting our exposure and narrowing our focus. Here are a few options:
    1. Read the news in the morning and then disconnect for the remainder of the day
    2. Limit our scope to local news
    3. Read a few (and only a few) in-depth articles by impressive journalists
    4. Look for positive news articles to balance our perspective
  2. Take action. We’ll feel more in control when we get involved.
  3. Back-to-basics: Go light on the caffeine, get plenty of sleep and make exercise a priority.
  4. Incorporate soothing activities into our life styles as a distraction to being plugged in all of the time:
    1. Meditating
    2. Listening to music
    3. Taking a bath
    4. Going out into nature


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