Smart technology is part of all aspects of life. Now in social isolation, we’re even more conscious of how much we rely on technology to stay connected, be entertained and get things done.

There is video conferencing for meetings at work, video calls to stay connected with the family, keeping active with live online workouts and pitting your wits against the neighbours at a virtual pub quiz. For now at least, face-to-face life has moved online.

While technology brings a sense of connection and many benefits to our socially distanced lives, there is a serious downside to being permanently plugged in. It’s easy to become transfixed by endless news alerts and relentless rolling headlines. Passively soaking up every distressing detail and alarming statistic leaves us feeling powerless. We have a basic need for certainty to feel safe and relaxed, but this sense of being out of control leaves us anxious and overwhelmed.

News related anxiety is not new. A 1997 study showed that negative news affects your mental health and makes you more likely to see situations as worse than they actually are.  Negative articles make you worry more about everything, even if those things aren’t related to the news.

In some ways, it’s perfectly understandable. Nature has wired our brain for survival. We naturally notice and remember information that could be a potential threat to our safety. Fortunately, there are practical ways to stem the effect of relentless bad news on our wellbeing while still staying up to date with the information we need.

Take a news break

Be patient with yourself. Building a new habit takes time and persistence. Don’t beat yourself up if it takes a while to settle into this new behaviour.

  1. How is news coverage making you feel? You are the best judge of your own experience. Trust your instincts about what needs to change
  2. If you feel that your mood or wellbeing is suffering, make a firm commitment to yourself to take back control and look after your own wellbeing
  3. Set a realistic time limit on reading or watching news
  4. Consider picking up highlights or a daily summary which is naturally limited rather than scrolling through endless rolling updates or watching a 24 hour news channel
  5. Turn off news notifications and alerts from your phone, tablet or desktop. Then you make a conscious choice to go and find news, it doesn’t push its way uninvited into your life
  6. Think carefully about when you decide to catch up with the news. Make sure you have time to process the information and unwind before it’s time to go to bed
  7. Be aware that other people may feel differently and have different opinions about their own news habits. Respect their choice, and ask them to respect yours
  8. Building a new habit takes time and consistency. Measuring how you’re getting on might help to keep you motivated. Keep a journal, chart or use an app to track your progress and your mood. Apps include moodscope.com

Once this is over, you can use the skills you have learnt to help you balance during difficult times in the future.

CABA provide lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff, and their close family members.

If you’re worried about the impact of the coronavirus on you and your family, find out how CABA can support you.