Mental Health and Listening to News

I used to be gung-ho about listening to the news and making sure that others listened to the news as well. That deep desire to listen to the news drove me toward a highly successful speech and debate career in high school,[1]  among other things.

However, in light of events in my life, I’ve needed to reevaluate my attitude towards listening to the news. You see, I’ve gone through some difficult things as well, and during these difficult times the last thing I wanted to hear was more bad news for half an hour every night.

So what is it? Should I (and we) avoid the news like I have sometimes done recently, or should I (and we) closely follow the news, no matter what?

I do think that it is still important to listen to the news; however, I do not think that news should be listened to at the expense of one’s own mental health.

It is important to listen to the news because we should know what is going on with our cities, states, countries, and the entire world. By listening to what is going on around us, we can (hopefully) make informed decisions in our own lives and in cases where the lives of others could be affected.[2] It can give us wise information on how we vote, on which parts of our cities and states are particularly rough, and on what the appropriate clothing is considering the weather outside. Clearly, we gain a great deal of value by listening to the news.

However, speaking from personal experience, that value of listening to the news is lost when we are mentally exhausted. Indeed, in my personal life last year, I’ve dealt with both of my dad’s parents being sick (one of them passed away); on a number of occasions during this time (especially when I spent a full day trying to help my grandparents), I would just tune out of the news on the television and not really absorb the information being given to me. And if I, a news nut, tune out when trying to listen to the news when I’m mentally exhausted, that’s a sign that we should all not invest much time in the news when we are mentally exhausted.

Furthermore, speaking from what I’ve seen friends and family experience, the value of listening to the news is also lost if a news story triggers emotions related to a past traumatic event in their lives.[3] When the emotions triggered by an event are so big that you struggle to listen to the news, then maybe that’s a sign to change the channel for the time being.

Yes, the news is valuable. But the news is not so valuable that we should ignore our own mental health. Especially considering the fact that you can read news stories two or three days after they appear on television, it’s more than okay to wait those few days and then read the news at that time.

[1] I qualified for a statewide speech and debate championship all four years of high school, and a nationwide speech and debate championship for three years of high school.
[2] I am talking about actual news journalism reporting, not the editorializing that we sometimes get on some of the cable news networks in the United States.
[3] This has especially been the case recently with various stories that have come out about sexual misconduct.

Note: This post was edited for Mental Health Awareness Month in 2019.

21 Replies to “Mental Health and Listening to News”

  1. The news triggers my anxiety and depression so I try to limit exposure…but on those rare occasions where they give you a happy ending story, like a little kid dressed like Batman who beat cancer, or a dog who braved floods and such and found its owners…It may be a simplistic view but it truly is the only respite I can find in all the world chaos.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That makes sense. The tough thing for me is that it genuinely is important to be well-informed. But at the same time, if the news triggers anxiety and depression, as it does for you, it’s important to take care of your mental health.

      Maybe you can tune in around 6:55 on the 6:30 news! That’s around the time when the cute child and animal stories come on (at least on NBC).

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Brendan! My condolence for the passing of your grandparent. Sorry, you are going through difficult times.

    I feel similar to you about the news. Listening to or reading the news adversely affects my mental health but I find a way to keep informed. Anyway, most news stories are the same reprocessed BS. With that said, when an event triggers strong emotions, I view it as an opportunity to peek into my subconscious and possibly see a blind spot. Sometimes we don’t have the time, or we are not ready but at some point lean in and listen.

    As bloggers, we know discomfort is necessary and often want to trigger it in our readers. What if our readers tuned out then?

    BTW, I often sound like you when I am stressed and don’t have time to give the things I cherish the desired attention.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks. The holidays are going to feel weird without my grandpa. 😦

      I think that’s an interesting idea, to take the triggering of strong emotions as an opportunity to peek into your subconscious and possibly see a blind spot. I haven’t really thought of doing that before; I often prefer to wait a few hours or couple of days until my emotions are a little more settled.

      With your question about blogging, discomfort, and our readers tuning out, I really haven’t given much thought to that. I agree that discomfort is necessary; at the same time, it’s never my intention or goal to trigger memories of a traumatic event in anyone’s life.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As a college student i didn’t have a T.V. so the only time i saw the news was in one of the dining halls. Mostly people would keep me updated with important news so I found out eventually. But i do find it saddening when a news station only focuses on the negative.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Unfortunately, most news stations tend to predominantly or only focus on the negative. When there is focus on the positive, it’s usually in the form of a human interest story at the end of the news. And that often doesn’t feel like enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Maybe three years ago, I cancelled cable tv, and I don’t have antenna tv, either. My life is so much less stressful without the constant bombardment of talking idiots. I can keep up quite nicely with what’s going on, using my computer. I can see what I want, when I want. It’s my choice. I also thought it was important to know what was going on all the time. It is not. What happens happens, whether you are aware of it or not. Then something else happens and the previous thing is relegated to old news. I try to do what I am able, sign petitions, post about things that matter to me, but I do not allow world events to color every moment of my day. So far, I’ve survived everything that’s ever happened since I was born, so I think I’m doing okay. Personally, I think the most important thing we do is to vote. Not just for the big offices, but the small ones as well, because that’s how they get a foot in the door. A few decades ago, the Religious Right started worming their way into every little office they could run for, and this is what it led to. Look into Ralph Reed, if you’re interested.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep. The thing is that the news that was around three days ago will still be around for you to read today. I do think it’s important to stay aware of what’s going on in the world, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of one’s mental health (and anyway, as I said, one can read three days from now anyway).

      I’m glad you vote in local elections, not just national ones. That is SO important, and more people need to do that!!!


      1. Agreed. I tell everybody that it matters that you vote for all the offices, not just the President. Town office leads to state office leads to US Government offices. Keep them out from the get-go.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I watch very limited news and no political news. Most news reports are repeated and com of the Associated Press unless they have field reporters. If it’s important it will be around several days later and you’re less likely to get fake news.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. There have been times when I cut my exposure to the news down to a minimum because I was too stressed out from other things to deal with the 874th iteration of “Oh, look at the latest horrible thing Trump did” and suchlike nastiness. It is important to be informed, but there’s nothing wrong with reducing your exposure to news for a while if you need to reduce sources of stress.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Brendan, I am so sorry about the loss of your grandfather. I find it easy to turn away from political news and I try to listen to the sorrows around us as a part of my prayerful practice.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I agree! Talking heads and political news sites exist to inspire outrage and division. I take literally everything with a grain of salt. I subscribe to an email service called TheSkimm that sends a brief, unbiased update on what’s happening recently every morning. I’m bad to not read it most days, but when I do, I get a little snapshot of what’s happening in the world without feeling anxious and angry.

    Liked by 2 people

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