Health and Wellness

Is the news cycle stressing you out? Here are 4 ways to protect your mental health

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Let's face it: 2022 hasn't exactly gotten off to a stellar start. From Covid's massive omicron wave to war in Ukraine, most people have been dealing with a daily barrage of upsetting news.

It's important to stay informed, of course. But experts say digesting too much trauma-related news is linked to a host of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress symptoms.

You might be exposing yourself to such news without even realizing it, just by using social media every day. "[S]ome may log onto social media apps with intentions other than to get news updates but may inadvertently get exposed to news posts from connections," Jacqueline Sperling, a clinical psychologist and faculty member at Harvard Medical School, tells CNBC Make It.

So, how can you effectively manage your mental health while still staying informed? Here are four tips from top experts:

Read summaries that don't involve pictures or videos

Audio and video can be very visceral: Seeing or hearing someone else suffering can take a toll on your own psyche. Sperling says news summaries without any pictures or videos attached are often more approachable.

She also recommends limiting your intentional news consumption to a few predetermined moments per day. "It also may be helpful to select no more than a certain number of times per day to check the news," she says. "Such as once in the morning and once in the evening."

You can take that a step further by limiting the amount of time you spend on each predetermined news check. It helps keep you from "doomscrolling," or binging on negative news, Sperling says.

Don't re-watch the same news reports

Dana Rose Garfin, an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine, has spent more than 13 years researching how trauma exposure impacts both physical and mental health. She says news outlets have a tendency to report the same information over and over again, which isn't beneficial for some people.

"[T]ry to turn the cable news off once you start hearing the same stories start to repeat," Garfin says.

She suggests listening to a daily news podcast from a trusted news source to get your information, and agrees with Sperling's recommendations to avoid graphic images or videos and limit your exposure time. For Garfin, a healthy maximum limit of news consumption is roughly 20 to 30 minutes per day.

Re-focus on your daily self-care practices

Feeling sad — and a little anxious — about the news coming out of Ukraine is normal, says Garfin. It's important to remember to keep up with your self-care practices during difficult times like this, she says.

That means getting enough sleep and exercise, staying connected with friends and family and engaging in other practices that you find comforting — from meditation or yoga to prayer or even just watching a movie.

It "can help you stay centered," Garfin says.

Volunteer your time or donate money

Finding ways to donate or volunteer your time — in this case, that could mean doing something to help Ukrainian refugees — is another way to help reduce stress and manage your mental health. Sperling says the act of getting involved can help reduce the sense of helplessness that many people feel during times of a crisis.

Garfin agrees. "[M]any people find being of service to others helps them feel better [about] themselves during times of difficulty," she says.

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