The headlines have been heavy for a while. It’s a symptom of the 24-hour news cycle: climate change, political conflict, war, and now we have COVID-19.

If you’re grappling with a sense of dread, you’re not alone. At this moment, lives are being disrupted across the globe — so if anything, you’re likely in the majority.

But over time, too much bad news can lead to ‘headline stress disorder‘ — a phenomenon coined by psychologist Steven Stosny when he noticed an uptick in patients linking their newsfeeds to anxiety.

Stosny’s term was originally due to stress caused by political headlines, but the sentiment can be applied to today’s health-focused news cycle.

One way to get away from the headlines is by engaging in healthy distractions, but how do you escape when your community is on quarantine, it’s still cold in parts of the northern hemisphere, and professional sports and large crowd gatherings are off the table?

In an interview with the CBC, Stosny offers a few tips:

  • Read the whole story. Often, the details within an article aren’t as startling as the headline makes it seem.
  • Organize your thoughts. Stosny recommends writing down your concerns and assigning them a numerical rating (like 1 to 5) based on how likely those events are to happen and/or directly impact your life.
  • Find your people. Don’t suffer in silence. Connect with friends and family — either in person, by text, or through social media. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing your anxiety with anyone, consider joining an online support group.
  • Be the change. Big news stories can lead to a sense of helplessness, but there are always ways you can change the world for the better. Start small if you have to: if climate change worries you and giving up plastic straws is all you can do, for example, then do that. Your actions and your voice can change the world. Never forget that.
  • Meditate. Stosny recommends connecting to “something larger than yourself” to find a sense of grounding. 

Last but not least: Don’t panic but be cautious, listen to the advice of experts, and do your part to help ‘flatten the curve’:

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