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How do I protect my mental health when I’m bombarded by bad news?

Four ways to fight the negativity on World Mental Health Day and every day

It feels more and more like negative news is everywhere we look. And while the news is an important part of our lives, if we’re not careful, this constant stream of negativity can be harmful to our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Ultimately, it can cause burnout.

Today is World Mental Health Day, when we focus our awareness on mental health issues around the world and do our part to make mental health care a reality for everyone worldwide.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but here are four ways you can make a start to look after your own mental health … without losing touch with what’s happening in the world.

1. Set a one-hour limit on phone time

Restrict  the time you spend on your phone/computer – not just when it comes to reading the news, but in general. When negative news is published, it inevitably leaks onto social media platforms as people discuss the story and share their opinions. This means you’re often oblivious to the amount of negative content you’re consuming. Be strict with yourself.

2. Create a free-time routine focused on positivity and wellbeing

Once you’ve set a limit on your phone time, it leaves space to focus on hobbies, life admin, or other activities that give you a sense of joy, relaxation and positivity instead. Start thinking about what that might look like:

  • One hour of exercise, even if it’s just a walk. Go with a friend or a partner, if you’re feeling sociable.
  • Cook a new recipe
  • Read a book
  • Yoga or meditation if you’re feeling stressed
  • Watch your favourite TV show, film or documentary
  • Meet with friends or family for dinner at a new restaurant

The idea here is that if you have a specific routine after work, you can preoccupy yourself with activities that are better for you than simply scrolling through your phone, as well as this, it helps you to step away and focus on something that nourishes your mind and body.

3. Step into ‘The Observer’ role 

We don’t like to feel negative emotions such as fear, anxiety or anger. Although they are natural and a part of life, we often push them away. When these emotions become overwhelming – such as when we’re constantly exposed to negative news stories – there is a great technique called ACT which helps you step into an ‘observer’ role to help you stay focused on the present moment and accept thoughts and feelings without judgement.

Next time you feel fearful about all the negative news, take action to change the vocabulary you use. Say out loud: “I notice I am feeling fearful but I am taking steps to manage that.” In our research we have found that if you constantly tell yourself you are stressed or burned out, this will eventually become your mindset and will have physical impacts as well. Say positive affirmations aloud, using words like “calm”, “relax”, and “peace”. Words have power!

4. Create a positive mindset with 7 minutes of ‘Stillness’

As humans, we are prone to a natural evolutionary phenomenon that sees us drawn to negative news. Our minds perceive it as a threat, and this can lead to the production of cortisol – a stress hormone. Typically, our bodies expect a period of rest after a threat is identified, giving our cortisol levels time to decline. But we’re not getting that rest period  because of the continuous stream of overwhelming news.

To get our bodies back in a resting state, we need to create a moment of stillness in the day and tune into our voice of reason. Our research shows that just seven minutes of quiet time a day (think meditation, breathwork or a nature walk) will help bring us to a less fearful state. There is a great app called Brain Fm that uses binaural beats to help you access the theta side of the brain (the part that we access during sleep or meditation) that can also help you to calm, focus at work, and rewire your brain. We have recorded a special 7 minutes of peace audio for you – check it out here.


Although it’s good to be attuned and aware of current events, we also need to know when it’s time to put our phones down, close the newspaper, or switch the news channel off, and embrace activities that will benefit our mind, body and soul.

Shift your mindset in 60 seconds with these simple exercises.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5DvtE3-sRg&feature=youtu.be

If you liked this, you’ll love our latest podcast on the future of work. Listen to it here.

ABOUT: Cara de Lange is a specialist in the science of burnout. A visionary author, wellbeing consultant and futurist, she founded Softer Success® to provide evidence-backed burnout solutions for businesses. Working with the world's top universities, researchers and psychologists, she created the ground-breaking, anonymous wellbeing assessment 'A Walk Through the Forest', which can diagnose the risk of workplace burnout and toxicity in 90 seconds.

Contact Cara

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