How to Reduce Stress from Media Overload (COVID-19)
Have you noticed a new level of exhaustion we are all feeling? The sensation of being ‘on-edge’ and anxious about being exposed? Are you wondering about the toll this is taking on your wellbeing?
While there are things we ‘need to know’ about COVID-19, there are some things we are better off not being exposed to.
We are constantly surrounded by news. information, opinion, debate and images related to the COVID-19 crisis. According to Garfin, research on previous crisis such as the Ebola epidemic and 9/11 bombings, repeated media exposure to the crisis can lead to increased anxiety and heightened stress responses. Such responses can lead to downstream effects on mental and physical health.
The constant anxiety can lead to social division and isolation, feelings of anger and aggressive behaviour and a sense of helplessness. Think of the behaviours we have seen so far. The hoarding of essential grocery items, avoidance of GP and specialist visits to address other health issues and even avoidance of incidental interactions with others (e.g. lack of eye contact and courteous greetings when passing others on the walking track).
The constant media coverage of events has unintended consequences for those at relatively low risk for direct exposure, leading to potentially severe public health repercussions. It’s not just the never-ending media focus, but it’s also the tone, pitch and pace at which it is delivered.
So, what can we do about it? Here are some of our suggestions for reducing exposure to stress-producing media:
10 ways to reduce media-related stress
- Choose your sources – with information coming from all directions, we often hear conflicting information, alarming opinions and even conspiracy theories. Choose the 1-2 sources that you feel deliver factual information delivered in an even tone and for short spurts of time.
- Allocate social-media and media free time. Even better, put a timeframe on when you will allow yourself to be exposed.
- In the car, listen to a playlist or calming podcast instead of commercial radio
- Avoid social media community groups that spread toxic and hateful opinions
- Commit time each day to both physical exercise and mental relaxation. This could be in large chunks but it also very effective if taken in short spurts of 5-10 mins at various times throughout the day
- Practice mindfulness by bringing your attention to the here and now (Health Breaks subscribers can try The 5 Senses pod, STOP, Centering for Mindfulness, 10 Deep Breaths and more on healthbreaks.app)
- Stay connected with others through regular phone calls and virtual catch ups and in person when allowed
- Make an agreement with friends and family to have COVID-19-free time, when mentioning anything to do with COVID is not permitted
- Be kind to others and to yourself – pay others a compliment and recognise areas that you are doing well at right now.
- Learn a new skill – this could be anything from languages to pilates. There are plenty of online free courses and activities you can do
Most importantly, finding time to do something positive for your health and wellbeing each day is a great way to manage stress and anxiety and help prevent these conditions worsening. A 5 minute Health Break is ideal. Try one of these stretches each day for the coming week.
If feelings of stress and anxiety are becoming overwhelming, contact your GP or, for urgent help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14
Health Breaks also offers coaching services as a preventative approach to enhancing health and wellbeing
Garfin, D. R., Silver, R. C., & Holman, E. A. (2020). The novel Coronavirus (COVID-2019) outbreak: Amplification of public health consequences by media exposure. Health Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/hea0000875
Garfin, D. R., Holman, E. A., & Silver, R. C. (2015). Cumulative exposure to prior collective trauma and acute stress responses to the Boston marathon bombings. Psychological Science, 26, 675–683. http://dx.doi .org/10.1177/0956797614561043