If you’re struggling with depression and anxiety, this is the most important self-care tip for your mental health. It will change your life.
I’m one of those people with a tendency towards depression and anxiety. As a highly sensitive person, I’ve had my first burnout experience in my early twenties. Over the years, this very potent combination of mental health challenges led me to take a rather unpopular step in the self-care department. A step that frequently causes disbelieve or head shaking. But this one simple self-care tip has had the biggest impact on my mental health.
I don’t follow the news.
There, I said it. I know it makes me a weirdo but I don’t read newspapers. I don’t look at the news online. I don’t browse through magazines. I don’t even check my Facebook feed regularly. My husband keeps me in the loop with really important issues when necessary but that’s it.
Mental health for depression and anxiety
What many people perceive as an immature way of dealing with reality, has become my most essential survival strategy. Being a mom of three little people, it’s my duty to protect my mental health as much as I can. One look at the news, however, has the potential to rob me of sleep, joy, and energy, ultimately leaving me unable to manage my everyday life. Yet I have a strong preference for being a stable, happy and somewhat calm mom. So, not following the news from around the world seems a very small price to pay for my sanity.
There’s a deeper issue with us being flooded by news 24/7, and it has a huge impact on those of us who struggle with anxiety and depression. News outlets typically focus on every tragedy under the sun, making it seem like life is everything but safe. Therefore, the messages we receive all day are accordingly: Life gets more dangerous every day. War and conflict are increasing everywhere. The health of our planet is on a steep downhill slope. And really, humanity is likely to come to an end any day now.
But there is something that the media hardly ever deem worth mentioning – and that’s positive news. Or even just the simple fact that for the overwhelming majority of people, today was just another regular day.
The effects of 24/7 information on mental health
Being constantly up to date on tragic events doesn’t even help anyone. It doesn’t make us more grateful or happy about our own lives. We’re not suddenly better able to protect your loved ones. And it does not provide any kind of relief to victims. The only thing that suffers is our mental health – and I dare say our general health as well.
The only thing this does is to massively increase stress levels in the majority of people. And increased stress levels deplete us of valuable energy – energy which we could otherwise use to change the world. That’s because our brains cannot tell the difference between an imagined event, an observed event, and one that actually happened to us.
The stress response in your body is the same, whether you are standing at the very edge of a skyscraper rooftop or just imagining it. Each horrible event – broadcast into your life by radio or tv, printed in newspapers or published online – causes a hormonal stress response, even if there is no immediate threat to our safety.
Most important self-care tip for your mental health
Here’s the one thing that you can do today which will have the biggest impact on your mental health: Reduce your exposure to the news to a bare minimum. Observe your day and check where bad news are seeping in. It may just be on in the background but it’s influencing your brain nonetheless. Once identified, try to eliminate the sources or find an alternative. Here is a list of examples to show you what that could look like:
- Find a radio station that doesn’t broadcast the news.
- Listen to podcasts rather than the radio.
- Use a radio playlist on Spotify or any other streaming service.
- Clean up your Facebook feed: Unfollow people who often share news, articles, and videos about horrible events (you’ll still be friends on Facebook).
- Set firm boundaries with other people: Make it clear if you don’t want to talk about or hear more details about a dreadful event.
- Spend less time with people who seem hungry for the next catastrophe and dive in as soon as something happens somewhere.
- Change the topic when bad news become the focus of a conversation – or simply excuse yourself to the bathroom.
- Take a book or audiobook to appointments where you might spend some time – instead of browsing the magazines in the waiting area
- Consider switching to a streaming service like Netflix or Prime Video and see if you might not lead a much happier life without regular TV.
Self-care like you mean it
Start taking small steps towards reducing your media exposure and see how it makes you feel. Some steps may feel uncomfortable at first. But as soon as you’ll notice how much this tip improves your mental health, it’ll get much easier to take further steps. Just make sure you don’t try to do it all in one swift motion – slow and steady wins the race.
There are ways to replace regular news with positive news. I’m so glad that by now, there are plenty of positive news outlets which focus exclusively on the good news of this world. More and more regular news outlets offer a section of good news. Just be careful with links to other sections if you’re really sensitive. Here are a few examples:
The result of this self-care tip for mental health
Soon you’ll notice how much lighter life feels. It’s going get much easier to simply enjoy life. You’ll be more joyful in the midst of everyday life. The small pleasures and miracles of life will be more obvious and enjoyable. There might even be a new sense of safety as you go about your day. And eventually, you’ll catch yourself with your eyes closed and sun shining in your face, thinking: “Life is actually pretty darn good.”
Then you’ll know it’s totally worth becoming a weirdo in the name of self-care.
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