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COVID-19: Stay Informed Without Sacrificing Mental Health

Chances are, you’ve been glued to TV, radio, and social media over the last few weeks trying to learn the very latest about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The constant barrage of scary statistics, stay-at-home orders, and pictures of critically ill people on ventilators is acutely disturbing on many levels.

So how do you stay informed without sacrificing your mental health? Here’s advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Learn the facts and use them to take control.

Incorporate into your daily routine the health and safety guidelines that you have learned through credible news sources. Knowing the facts and taking precautions based on this information can often give a sense of control, especially now during these rapidly changing and uncertain times.

Limit your exposure to news coverage.

Although it’s important to know the facts about COVID-19, there’s no need to rush to the TV, radio, or internet for every hourly update. Information overload is a very real cause of acute stress, anxiety, and unnecessary worry. Instead, check for new developments once or, at most, twice a day. Watch, listen or read only what you really need to know or what’s relevant to you, your family and your community. Turn the 24 news channels off! Limit your exposure. These programs are designed to strike an emotional chord, often in an exaggerated fashion, to maintain viewership. Again, turn off the constant stream of agitating news. Use the off button; you’ll feel better for it!

Limit your children’s exposure to the news, too.

Children can easily misinterpret what they hear and become overly frightened. Talk with your children about the coronavirus and use language that they can understand. Reassure them that you’re doing all you can to keep them and your family safe. Limit their stream of constant COVID-19 news as well. A little here goes a very long way.

Choose credible news outlets.

False information, rumors, paranoid fears spread easily during a crisis, especially over social media. If something concerns you, consult a trustworthy source to find the fact-based answer. Reliable sources include the websites for the CDC, FEMA, your local health department, and your doctor.

Consider news sources that allow you to avoid disturbing content.

When you view news reports on your telephone or computer, you can quickly scroll past disturbing photos and click only the information that is of focal interest to you. You don’t have to see, read, and listen to everything that is presented. Be selective. Again, more is not better in this situation.

Distinguish between global, national, and local news reports.

Be aware that the spread of the coronavirus will not necessarily take the same course in the United States as it has taken in other countries. And, it may not take the same course in our state as it has taken in other states. Think critically about the information you hear and don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t assume. Use facts to reach reasoned conclusions.

Try to accept the uncertainty and be hopeful.

The media cannot address all worries or answer all questions. No one news outlet or person can, either. Take comfort in knowing that health officials and researchers around the world are trying their best to address the COVID-19 pandemic as quickly as possible. Uncertainty will reign for a period, but not in perpetuity. The pandemic will eventually pass. That is a certainty. Focus on that truth instead of reacting to our present, but temporary, period of uncertainty.

Ask someone to be your filter.

If you find that news coverage is just too upsetting, ask a trusted friend or relative to help by filtering the news for you. This person can give you updates or summaries as, or if, needed. This filter method will allow you to learn needed information without feeling overwhelmed by the constant barrage of round-the-clock news coverage.

Restore a sense of normalcy to your life.

Instead of channel surfing between various news sources, go outdoors for a walk, read a novel, take a warm bath, play with your children or cook a nutritious meal. Keep your normal routine as much as possible, and frequent the activities that elicit a sense of calm and renew your internal sense of peace and contentment.

If you experience marked mental stress that lasts for more than several days in a row, please seek support from a healthcare provider. For a list of trusted mental health resources and hotlines, as well as information about the free mental health assessments that are available, visit tanner.org/behavioral-health-care/resources.

Visit cdc.gov/COVID19 to keep up with the latest news and recommendations regarding the virus. To find out more about what Tanner Health System is doing to address COVID19, visit tanner.org/ncov.

Behavioral Health Care

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