In 2021, we possess devices at our fingertips that provide us access to information about the world and much more. We are privileged to be educated on what is going on around us, but there is a point in time where this benefit can ultimately cause a negative impact on our mental health. 2020 tested our abilities to cope with the news. Personally, I found myself obsessively checking my phone as much as I could, only to be faced with the same news that would stress me out for days. I would stare at a screen which showed a drastic increase in numbers of Covid-19 patients or the reports of the destruction caused by the Australian wildfires. This was probably one of the only ways most of us could get through with all the free time on our hands in quarantine when distanced from our loved ones. At first, I profited off of this. I could turn my knowledge into a debate session with my parents at the dinner table or just share it with my peers. But as time went by in isolation, days didn’t take long to blur into a continuous loop and I was stuck in a cycle of being force fed by the media.
So what is the difference between being educated and becoming obsessed and stressed with news? Being educated is when you are aware of the situations that affect others and not only yourself in the world. You are educated regarding topics that impact other people and are keen on learning more. Becoming obsessed is when you cannot take your mind or time off the news no matter how stressful it is. This obsession can decrease your productivity and negatively impact your views, as being reminded of the same bad news may lead to a pessimistic mindset.
WW3 scares. Covid-19. Natural disasters. 2020 US Presidential election.
These were some of the few major topics that came up in 2020. They were spoken of so much that at times it felt inescapable. Social media, radios, newspapers, magazines all repeated the same things. Chaos seemed to repeat itself like a broken record. Taking a break or even logging out of social media can be beneficial for you to focus on your life and those around you instead of the negativity and hoaxes that the media produces.
I have interviewed a fellow friend, Adrian El Chaar who has spoken up about news stress in 2020 during the Beirut explosion.
“Good morning. I am Cynthia Aung interviewing a fellow friend, ADRIAN EL CHAAR on news stress. Specifically the Beirut explosions and the tragic news that followed the country’s explosion.”
“Adrian is lebanese. So you could only imagine how he must have felt earlier this year after the Beirut explosion.”
“Tell me about when you first heard the news. How did you find out?”
Adrian: “I initially first heard the news on social media where it was shared by multiple individuals. It was later immediately announced on TV at home. I was heavily worried as based on the reactions I observed I understood the alarming extent of its severity and the negative impacts it had caused within my country.”
“How did it feel? Did you have a shock of fear thinking of your loved ones?”
Adrian: “As I witnessed the dreadful and disturbing scenes. I was flabbergasted by the explosion which had occurred that day and frightened for my loved ones, as there were multiple casualties and major injuries which required hurried attention. I was just hoping my loved ones wouldn’t be the victims of this incident. Numerous hospitals were overfilled with patients, three major hospitals had to close while three others had to downsize. As a result people who were in critical conditions did not receive the necessary care in a timely manner.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Can you tell me ways you coped with the stress of the news?”
Adrian: “I avoided triggering topics in the news which created a personal connection with me as it constantly heightened my stress. I decided to take a break from those certain channels and outlets who were covering disturbing news such as the Beirut explosion. It was important for me to follow up with the current events, however, I had to limit the amount of news consumption, as developing that obsessive habit from irresponsible use of technological devices would have resulted in negative effects on my mental health.”
“2020 was rough, is there any advice you have for those struggling to handle their negative thoughts and feelings on the chaos of news and social media?.”
Adrian: “Practicing sound stress management on a regular basis would be an effective solution towards decreasing news anxiety. Engaging in exercises and physical activities is essential as it improves your mood, significantly reduces feelings of depression and stress. Physical activities enhance your awareness of your mental state and are considered to be a form of distraction from your fears. Sleep is another important factor as it enables the body to repair and be fit. In addition it relaxes and clears your mind from nerve-racking topics.”
“Anything else you would like to share about your experiences relating to last year?”
Adrian: “2020 and COVID-19 was a challenging year for everyone but had allowed me to reflect on myself, focus on my passions and discover multiple different approaches to increase my productivity on a day to day basis. I would recommend everyone to keep their heads up during tough times and hope for the best outcome possible.”
“Well, thank you for your time Adrian.”
Like what Adrian said, focusing on your own well being is a good tip to ignore the stress. It is important for us to not abandon our priorities in our day-to-day lives. Something as simple as having a technology free time or exercising more can help us feel better about ourselves and be healthier. Remember that it is ok to not have an account of all that is happening in the world. Once you start to feel as though your energy is being drained, take a break.
At the end of the day, breathe and take time away from your devices to spend time focusing on yourself and your family.
This post was edited by Elizabeth Chernyak & Darius Fleischmann.