Information Hygiene: How To Deal With Bad News

In the digital era we got not only unlimited access to knowledge and means of communication, but also an almost uncontrolled flow of news – including emotionally difficult and terrible events.

How to support yourself when a huge stream of information about death, violence or social injustice falls upon you?

Allow yourself to express emotions

The terrible news is quite capable of causing a stressful reaction, even if we try to convince ourselves that these are just letters and pictures on the screen.

Crying, being agitated or depressed is normal, even if it is tears about strangers who died in a plane crash, or about a victim of domestic violence.

Empathy is a natural human quality. If you feel that emotions are overwhelming you, allow yourself to express them. It is also a good defense against overwhelming yourself with hard news.

When we realize how much the information we receive affects us, we begin to be more careful about digital hygiene.

Track strong bodily and emotional reactions

It is important to notice when reading or watching the news begins to harm you, causing too much stress.

Tense shoulders or legs, jaw clenched or other bodily manifestations of severe anxiety, sleep or appetite changes, depressed or, on the contrary, inflated mood are true signs of such stress.

If any of the above began to appear regularly after viewing the news feed, perhaps you should limit the flow of incoming information or even temporarily stop reading news and the feed on social networks.

Try to avoid hard news when you are especially vulnerable: early in the morning, right before bedtime, or when you are hungry, haven’t enough sleep, or are already worried or upset about something.

Make Sure You Have No Depression or Other Disorder

Sometimes, the fact that a person began to notice only the negative aspects of life, can serve as a sign of depression or other mental disorders.

Thoughts that only evil, violence and cruelty are happening in the world, that humanity or an individual part of it does not have a good future, that life is very difficult, can be an alarming signal.

It is worth considering whether you have other symptoms of depression: changes in appetite or sleep, negative perceptions of your life and prospects, apathetic or irritated mood, decreased physical activity, loss of interest in what you liked before.

If there are two or more symptoms and they last longer than two to three weeks in a row, you should consult a specialist.

Interrupt Auto Response

Our psyche perceives negative information as a threat, and as a self-defense there is a desire to control what is happening.

But how can you curb what has already happened to other people and at a great distance from you?

The brain decides to continue reading or watching the news, because it gives the illusion of control. In fact, this only enhances the stress response, which does not get a way out.

If you notice that the reaction has looped – you cannot stop reading, talking about difficult events, discussing them with friends and social networks – it may be worth the effort of will to stop and try to switch.

The simplest actions will help: close the laptop, go for a walk, cook your own lunch or pour tea.

Track cognitive bias

Negative information causes anxiety, forcing to concentrate on it.

And then the effect of cognitive distortion, known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, may work, it is an illusion of frequency: if we learned some information recently, then hearing it a second or third time, we will perceive it as unusually often repeated.

For example, you first thought about environmental issues or read about how domestic violence occurs. It’s very likely (because the news about both is quite frequent) that after this article and posts on the topic of global warming, fires or abuse in the family, you will catch your eye literally everywhere – in fact, because earlier you just flipped through them, and now they began to pay attention.

This can create a depressing impression, so it is important to separate your awakened consciousness (which is actually very good) from the gloomy thoughts that humanity is doomed.

Do not be ashamed of the need to switch

Disconnecting from the flow of heavy news is not indifference and not social irresponsibility, but self-preservation.

Here it is worth recalling the oxygen mask, which is first worn on yourself, or thinking that if you are exhausted, you certainly can not help anyone, but only increase the number of distressed people by one more.

Do not let others impose a feeling of guilt on you that your emotional container is not unlimited: only you can decide how many difficult stories you can endure now.

And yes – if you are sick, depressed or experiencing a difficult period of life, it is likely that this volume is zero. This is also normal, and you have the right to recover and follow the information diet as much as you need.

Highlight Triggers

Social injustice, violence, the death of living beings can emotionally affect any person. But often, what is connected with our personal negative experience: physical or sexual violence, traumatic childhood experience, bullying, death of loved ones, is especially hard on us.

Knowing “your” topics, you should be especially careful when reading or even watching a video with just such information.

If after hard news you can’t calm down in any way, it’s likely that, besides the usual human sympathy, your reaction is caused by the recollections of your own injuries.

Ask yourself, do the sensations you experienced while reading or watching this news resemble something that has already happened in your life? Do they remind you of something? What catches the most, hurts?

Sometimes such episodes become the path to awareness of one’s own traumatic experience, which was previously supplanted.

But be careful: if you unblock such memories, you will need a lot of self-care and, possibly, psychological help.

At the very least, in such a situation, the support of understanding relatives is needed, with whom difficult experiences can be shared.

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