Information Overload: How to Cope and Keep Well
By Matthew Delaney (Staff)
In today’s age, all the information we could ever need is a click or a tap away. As someone who has always prided himself as being the informed friend who is caught up with the news of the day, this can seem like a great thing! But in our time of 24-hour news cycles and newsfeeds, this can overwhelm our brains.
As someone who is already prone to anxiety, I have noticed that this constant influx of information has distorted my own thoughts and mood. My perception of the world can change to one that is far more negative, constantly thinking about the future and the events going on in an unstable world, and always having a distraction during times where I am supposed to be in the moment. Whether that be with my work and colleagues, my family or my friends, I continually find myself glued to my phone or the TV. But during these times, it is important to check yourself, and I have found some ways to decrease my anxiety and consumption of information while still keeping informed.
Balance your consumption: Similar to the concept of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the way we think impacts the way we feel. Our brains have a “negativity bias”, we are wired to pay attention to news or information that scares or unsettles us. Each day, I try to balance my consumption of information between things that I am interested in such as music news or positive stories, and the news of the day which may be more negative. Finding positive news each day reminds me that many good things happen in the world, and helps me remain grateful for what I have and hopeful for the future.
Limit your sources: Instead of relying on the constantly refreshing feed on social media for information, I limit myself to 2-3 sources I find enjoyable and know I can trust. Listening to a news podcast on my way to work has become my morning routine, and instead of checking my news feed throughout the day, I rely on the national news each night to catch me back up to speed. This allows me to be in the moment for most of my day instead of spending it online waiting for that next update.
Manage your time: When I am shifting my focus to my work, I make sure to put my phone on “Do Not Disturb”. This allows me to focus on what is important in that moment rather than surfing the internet. The world will not stop spinning if I disconnect for a few hours, so managing my time online allows me to be far more productive and do the work I love without distraction.
Write down your feelings and be kind to yourself: While I do not keep a journal for every single day, when I am feeling overwhelmed by the world’s events or feel overloaded, I like to write down my thoughts. Not only does journaling make me think out and put my feelings into words, it also serves as a great memento I can look back at in the future. Keeping a mindset of self-kindness and reflection spreads to others, so remembering to remain understanding and kind to myself helps me spread it to others.
In today’s world, it is nearly impossible to avoid the constant information and news being blasted through our phones and TV’s. But by creating some boundaries and some coping strategies, I have managed to both prevent and learn how to deal with anxiety that comes and goes with today’s information overload. Learning these strategies and being kind and patient with myself has made me be able to enjoy being informed, while still maintaining my mental wellness.