Consuming the news left me informed, but the cost was my peace of mind
Stay up late doing homework. Sleep. Wake up. Check COVID-19 cases in Ontario. Brush my teeth. Wash my face. Drink coffee. Get to work. Check the news. Work some more. Check the news. Stay up late. Go to bed.
This is what my day looks like — full of school work and all the other things that fill up my time at home. As a fourth-year journalism student at Ryerson University, I have learned a lot as I progressed through my years of school. Through these years, I have learned how to write a good news story. But now, for the first time, I’m learning how to avoid them.
Sometimes we forget to give ourselves a break from the noise, especially during this time at home where we are bombarded with tragic stories being reported one after the other.
While reading the news can offer insight into the things going on around us, negative stories can also amplify our own fears when that is all we are taking in. Seventy-one per cent of students indicated increased stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to this survey from the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
“The way that news is presented and the way that we access news has changed significantly over the last 15 to 20 years,” says Graham Davey, a professor emeritus of psychology at Sussex University in the U.K. and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, as reported in Time magazine. “These changes have often been detrimental to general mental health.”
Like many, I am in this program to report on things that matter. Stories that offer positivity and hope while uplifting readers. Unfortunately, the world does not work like this. Not all news is good news. Journalists must report on things that are happening whether they are good or bad.
Solutions journalism actually offers a focus on potential answers to the problems being written about. If the city isn’t doing enough to help out in a certain community, journalists have to report on that, but with this method, they actually include the solution and report on where the story goes from there. This offers the possibility of solving these issues and takes away some of that fear from the readers.
I have always viewed reading the news as my duty. I believed that I needed to be informed on things happening around the world even if they were not impacting me directly, because it’s simply my profession. Professors have stood in front of our classes, detailing the importance of reading the news in order to know how to write it.
So I spent every day for a couple years soaking in every bit of news that publications had to offer. Especially in today’s climate, I check the news daily to see the number of COVID-19 cases.
This really affected my mental health and left me drained at the end of each day. My mind was reeling and my anxiety was freshly pricking at me. It instituted a fear in me that I thought was unavoidable. The world is in fact a scary place and I did not want to be ignorant in it, so I kept reading.
Especially during COVID-19, I’ve been reading stories of loss, natural disasters during the pandemic, and crime in the GTA on a daily basis. Reading the news left me informed, but the cost was my peace of mind.
The moment I realized that it wasn’t an obligation for me to be informed in every aspect, a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. It is important to be informed on the things happening in this world and reading the news can make you a better journalist at the end of the day. But it is your duty and obligation to take a step back sometimes.
There are some practical ways you can stop scrolling and take a break from the heavy news stories.
- Download apps that help restrict time spent on apps: StayFocusd is a Google Chrome extension that lets you limit the time spent on certain websites. Your phone might even have that option for the apps you use under settings.
- Look into positive news websites or good news sections in well-known publications: The Huffington Post has a section for good news or you can check out the Good News Network that aims to report positive news stories.
- Reduce your news consumption without eradicating it completely: have a designated day and time for reading the news instead of overwhelming yourself daily in order to digest the news in a healthier manner.
Know when to turn the news off, when to mute those notifications and when to leave checking the case count for another day.
This may seem a bit ironic as I am a student journalist, this is an article and you are reading this on the Ryersonian’s website. But maybe this article is something you won’t be able to handle today. If you need to come back tomorrow when you have the energy to take it in, that is OK.
Be informed but know your capacity. We are human before we are journalists.