News Anxiety: How to Stay Plugged In Without Getting Stressed Out
Stressed out by the news? You’re not alone.
A growing body of research suggests Americans are feeling more anxiety than ever before – and at least part of it could be the changing way we consume news.
A study published in November by the American Psychological Association found that 59 percent of Americans consider this the lowest point in American history. A majority of Americans surveyed by the APA said that just keeping up with the news was a source of stress.
It’s not just that we live in a 24-hour news cycle – with smartphones and social media, there is, for many of us, no turning it off.
“We use our phones as alarm clocks and the news comes to our phones. We’ve consumed news before our feet hit the floor,” said Alexandra Solomon, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the Family Institute at Northwestern University.
“Historically, we needed to go to the news. We turned on the evening news. We picked up the newspaper. Today, with the advent of smartphones and 24-hour cable news cycle, the news comes to us,” she said. “The pace of change in the realm of technology has been exponential. We are all grappling with how to be ‘well’ in this brave new world.”
The level of division and political polarization in the country is also a source of stress that is impacting our most intimate relationships, according to Solomon.
“The part that really feels quite heartbreaking for me is watching the ways this is affecting marriages and families and family systems,” Solomon said.
One way to begin to bridge those divisions, Solomon says, is through conversation, even when those conversations don’t come easy.
“Talking about politics is hard but it is important,” she said. “As a family therapist, I know what relational creatures we are. We are hardwired to need each other. The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives, so it is painful to know that families are being driven apart in this polarized climate. As an American, I know that face-to-face, up close, personal, tender, careful dialog is the only way we find a path back to each other. The future of our country rests on it.”
Solomon joins Brandis Friedman to discuss ways to manage “news anxiety” amid the 24-hour news cycle.