This is what 'bad news' is doing to your mind, according to psychologists

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Looking at the news from the past few months it has been a never ending stream of stress, despair and concern.

Hurricanes, earthquakes, mass shootings, far-right protests, terrorist attacks, sexual assault scandals, and threats of nuclear war are all too much to deal with at times.

Psychological experts have now managed to give a name to the toll this can take on the brain and it is called "disaster fatigue". Unsurprisingly, it is all down to your smartphones.

The New York Times quote Dr. Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a psychology professor from the University of Texas at San Antonio as saying:

We’re seeing more ‘disaster fatigue.'

In the digital age where studies show some three out of four people check their smartphone before going to bed and shortly after waking up in the morning it's getting harder not to feel overwhelmed. 

Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, of the University of California Berkley adds:

The barrage of ever-present ‘bad news’ — and, for young people, the barrage of social-media-related permanent records of negative social interchanges — is a factor.

Yet, how are we supposed to combat this onslaught of terrible news? Completely delete our social media accounts? Ignore the news completely? Lock ourselves inside and never go out?

Fortunately experts believe that there are far more simple solutions to this problem that should be able to fend off the blues throughout the day.

Unplug from social media

This might sound like an obvious solution but by not checking social media every two minutes you will limit your exposure to bad news.

Considering that we are constantly surrounded by news and screens, this could be easier said than done, especially as the brain is known to release a stress hormone if it isn't exposed to social media.

Dr. Christina Mangurian, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California says:

It’s the repeated exposure that is the problem.

I suggest limiting the alerts and turning off phones a couple of hours before bed.

Even easier ways to avoid social media include keeping your phone in another room over night, blocking sites you regularly visit and personally logging how often you are spending online.

Focus on the good news

When the bad news starts to rain it often pours. Therefore it can be easy to overlook the good bits of news and fun tidbits that are out there.

There are plenty of uplifting apps and websites online that are designed to specifically improve your mood and keep you away from all that nasty stuff.

Even if you want to remain on the usual social media platforms try adopting a policy of only positive stuff, in order to keep everyone's mood up.

Dr. McNaughton-Cassill adds:

It’s basically cognitive behavioural therapy, the idea that people can think differently about the same event.

So, if you only focus on the negative, you’re going to feel bad.

Look for a silver lining, and try to find something positive to focus on, such as all the people who have helped others during crisis events.


Be it in person, over the phone or online, therapists are there to help to help and to listen to what is troubling you.

Here are a few websites and phone line that we would recommend.

  • You can contact the Samaritans 24-hours a day for free via their website or phone line 116123
  • If you're LGBTQI and in need of someone to talk to, Switchboard LGBT offer advice and help every day from 10am to 10pm on their website and on 0300 330 0630
  • Alternatively, if you suspect a young person might need help, you can call Childline for help and advice on 0800 111.

Look after yourself

The importance of self-care cannot he emphasised enough.

A regular amount of exercise, a decent night's sleep, eating healthily, spending time with family and friends, even meditation will do you the world of good.

You can't solve the world's problems yourself, otherwise you'd probably be Superman. Just take a step-back and try to care about the one thing you know the most about; yourself.

Dr. Mangurian says:

Taking time out to breathe is important. Taking time for yourself is important.

We feel during difficult times that we can’t take time for yourself — but we must so we can care for others.

HT New York Times

More: Why you need to delete all social media from your phone right now

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