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I have been living with depression for many years. Before I had my symptoms under control, there were times I couldn’t process news at all. I was so wrapped up in my pain that I lost interest in what was happening in the world around me. And when I did pick up a newspaper, reading gloomy headlines would often heighten my depression and affirm my pessimism about the future.
These days, the news is as depressing as ever and dominated by a global health crisis. Sometimes it can feel impossible to keep up. The tragic headlines seem to be piling up at a much faster rate than they used to. Even when you’re avoiding the news, you’ll likely happen upon it by logging onto social media. Through various social media platforms, news travels faster and farther than ever before.
Given the challenge of managing depression in such an environment, what’s a person to do?
Here are eight tips for engaging with the news and social media that have worked for me while living with depression.
Limit yourself to specific windows of time to check social media or watch the news. For example, once in the morning and once in the evening. Permit yourself just enough time so that you’re informed. Try not to linger. The longer you’re tuned in, the more likely your mood will be affected by the negative headlines.
Remind yourself that the news and social media are also businesses. It’s someone’s job to make sure you’re still watching. Sometimes, a publication or network will spin a situation to keep you engaged. Try to avoid watching repetitive coverage of breaking news.
If you find that the news cycle is aggravating your anxiety, try to calm yourself with a relaxing activity. For instance, deep breathing, a long walk, or a hot bath. Self-care is essential to your happiness and well-being.
Make human connections. Rather than binge on your social media feed, pick up the phone and call a loved one. You don’t have to talk about the news. But if you want to, sometimes discussing hard topics with someone you love can help you feel a little less alone.
Hearing about the world’s problems might make you feel powerless. Take a few minutes to focus on what you can do. It can be something small, like feeding your fish or watering a houseplant. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we do have control over some things.
Understand that the news is not an accurate representation of reality. Every day, there are thousands of acts of kindness and courage that don’t get any coverage. When you’re down, remind yourself of the good in the world by jotting down a few things you are grateful for.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with bad news, consider turning off the TV and doing something to make the world better. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It can be as simple as helping a friend with shopping or donating to a local food bank, when possible.
Unplug periodically from news and social media. Take at least one day a month to be free of electronics. Allow yourself a different perspective.
Many people have a hard time establishing good habits when it comes to watching the news or engaging in social media. If you’re living with depression, it’s understandable to worry that turning on the news might compound your symptoms. Yet, it’s important to be informed about the world.
If you feel like bad news has compounded your depression, reach out to a loved one or call a support line. There is always someone there who can help you.
For more information on how to manage depression, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.