What does watching violence do to your mind? ‘Nothing good’: 5 tips for maintaining mental health while following the news

Maria Korneeva | Moment | beautiful images

The conflict in Israel and Gaza has dominated the news cycle over the past week. Turn on the TV or log onto any social media platform and you’ll be faced with a barrage of horrific headlines.

While staying informed is important, consuming too many graphic images and videos can negatively impact your mental health.

According to a recent study, media exposure to mass violence can promote a “cycle” in which viewers are extremely distressed by the news and that causes them to watch even more news than.

“Nothing good” happens to your brain when you see violent images, said Iliyan Ivanov, a professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

For adults who have experienced trauma or have a mood disorder, these effects can be devastating.

“People with a certain level of anxiety may be apprehensive about what might happen next because the situation is so fluid and uncertain,” he tells CNBC Make It. “There’s always this feeling of: ‘What else could happen? Something terrible is going to happen.'”

However, there are ways to watch the news while still taking care of your mental health.

Read with caution, says Alison Holman, a professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine. Holman studies trauma and media exposure.

“Identify news sources that are trustworthy and reliable,” says Holman. “In other words, they provide real news. What I recommend is to choose two, maybe three top sources.”

You don’t have to spend hours to stay informed. “Take time out during the day and say, ‘I’m going to spend 15 to 20 minutes reading about what’s going on so I know what’s going on.’” And then do it again in the evening, she says. “

This is not about watching less news, she added. It’s about not over-consuming. “It’s important that people don’t bury their heads in the sand.”

Identify reliable and trustworthy news sources. In other words, they provide real news

Alison Holman

professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine

“Graphic images will affect us more [than reading articles]”, Ivanov said, because “80% of the information the brain receives comes from visual signals.”

Platforms like YouTube, which have an endless stream of videos, are no longer ideal, he said.

“A lot of bad things happen,” he said. “Do I need to see thousands of people die? Of course not. You don’t have to see everything in detail to understand how terrible it is.”

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Reading articles, even if they have graphic details, is still a better idea, he says.

And just because you believe a source is reputable, Holman says, doesn’t mean you need to engage with everything it publishes.

“Reading one story instead of watching multiple videos is important,” she said. “The New York Times just published a series of quite graphic videos on their website and I was sitting there hoping not many people saw them.”

Each person’s needs and abilities are different. Normally, your body will tell you when to log off and do something else, says Holman.

“Are you starting to feel tension in your neck or shoulders?” she speaks. “Are your breathing becoming shallower? You don’t want to let yourself get caught up where you can barely breathe.

“Pay attention to the signals your body is telling you when you watch the news. You can identify what is making you react strongly.”

Make sure you’re filling the rest of your day with activities that bring you joy or relaxation.

“Find something else to do,” Holman said. “Find some guilty pleasure. Anything that helps you process what you’re learning. Don’t let yourself become isolated and sucked into the news alone.”

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