Manage information overload, minimize stress

The news stream has been a 24/7 stream of updates and information about the COVID-19 pandemic and more recently updates on protests following the death of George Floyd. If all this information has you feeling overwhelmed, depressed, unable to focus, helpless or fearful, please know you’re not alone.

So, how can we be more intentional with managing all that information and the stress and anxiety it may be creating in our day?

Here’s a five-step plan that might help you better manage the information overload.

Step by step

First, identify the sources. How are you receiving information and news throughout the day, by radio, TV news, social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.,) or from friends and family? Take an inventory of how many ways you are exposed to news and information.

Secondly, start filtering the information you’re receiving. What news outlets do you find a best fit for you? Do you prefer to listen to news on the radio, or a podcast, or is it better for you to watch a local or national news station? Is social media helping or hindering your feelings about information overload?

Some people avoid watching the news because the graphics and videos can be startling and prefer to read an article or just listen to a newscast. Here is a good link from Forbes that is one way to choose news sources. Take time to decide the best format and sources that give you the information you need to make good decisions without becoming overwhelmed or overloaded.

Habits and actions

Next, set up a scheduled time to review information. Perhaps you only watch the news at lunch, follow social media for an hour each morning or listen to newscasts before dinner. Creating some structure on how and when you access information updates can help you stay well informed without the news taking over your entire day.

Pay attention to how you feel after that scheduled time. Was it too much, or are you wanting more information? Adjust until you reach a balance that works for you.

When accessing news information, the next step is to decide whether to act on it. This step can really help with feelings of being overwhelmed. When you are watching the news or reading a news article that has a call-to-action (donate to a food bank, for example) decide in that moment to act on it or not. Then let it go. Perhaps you read an article about connecting with family during this time of social distancing. Take action on it right away, call the friend or family member on your mind. This action can help you feel a little more in control in this unsettling time.

Set your boundaries

Lastly, turn it off. Try to not take in news first thing in the morning or the last thing before bed. Give yourself some space to start and end the day without the bombardment of local, national, and world news that can be emotionally upsetting.

Columnist David Brooks in a column titled, “The Stem and the Flower,” warned of spending too much time consuming politics in particular and wrote, “I figure that unless you are in the business of politics, covering it or columnizing about it, politics should take up maybe a tenth corner of a good citizen’s mind. The rest should be philosophy, friendship, romance, family, culture and fun.”

In other words, be informed about matters of importance, but don’t let the news cycle take over your day. Set your limits and see how this improves your overall well-being.

We are here for you

Of course, some people are more adept at dealing with information overload than others, but if you have been struggling, you can improve how you deal with it. If you want to speak to someone about the feelings you are experiencing, please reach out to us at Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call the free Warm Line at 303-280-6602.. Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.

Our experts

This column is written by Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. The Senior Reach provides treatment for depression and trauma, as well as many other mental disorders.
As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.