Confessions of a Recovering News Junkie

My journalistic fever took hold at age 10 when I wrote an article for my family newspaper uncovering the fact that my super smart grandfather was a C student. Once I had discovered the thrill of reporting, there was no turning back. I read everything newspaper and magazine could get my hands on, and wrote for every publication that would let me.

Breaking news will always give me a rush, but when the news is horrific, as it is so often these days, it can take a toll on my mental health.

My friend Christian Burgess, who happens to be the Director of the Disaster Distress Helpline, explained why in this article for The Atlantic. “Not only does it risk worsening anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, but it can create new mental health concerns, particularly among people who may not have a support system in place, or who may be vulnerable to distress.”

Now, when I get a breaking news alert about something more important than the Brangelina breakup, I follow these rules:

Decide What I Need to Know

In the case of the bombing in New York last week, I needed to know that a bomb went off injuring lots of people. I needed to know that the suspects were at large and that as a New Yorker, I should probably be a little more alert than usual. It was also important to know what I could do, if anything, to help. Everything else, from reading how the bomb was made to seeing pictures of people running in the streets, was not critical information, so I tuned it out.

Stick to the Facts

There is often very little actual news following a BREAKING NEWS! alert. When possible, as in when there’s something that is happening far away from me and my loved ones, I try to wait a day or two for all of the facts to come together. That way I don’t become anxious over speculation, and speculation is the only thing commentators really have in the immediate aftermath.

Set Limits

It’s helpful to remember that until very recently, people were only able to get information from their morning paper and evening newscast. When really bad news is coming at me from all directions, I set limits on the number of times each day I will check the news— and try to avoid social media. My job as a communications director can make that hard, but I generally find that I can get all the news I need for work and myself by tuning in a mere 3-4 times each day.

When it comes to news, the FOMO isn’t as bad as TMI.