The “Information Diet”

In the past few days, things have been changing by the hour. The coverage on the news and social media, while there to keep us informed, is non-stop and can quickly become overwhelming if we let it. Whether we are continuing to work or have been laid off because of this situation, we are inundated with information. It takes a toll on our psychological well-being and we can take steps to set boundaries, and consider going on an information Diet.

This doesn’t mean an elimination diet, just less consumption, and more careful consumption. It is helpful to stay up-to-date with the latest statistics and directives, but immersing yourself in the news and reading all of the social media posts and predictions about Covid-19 can lead to an ever-present anxiety and low mood. We can play an active role in maintaining our psychological health by making decisions about what to consume, when to consume, and how much to consume.

In our previous Tip of the Day, we discussed the benefits of creating a daily routine. It might be helpful to schedule news updates into your routine. Yesterday, I decided to be more intentional about how much news I watched or listened to regarding Covid-19. For me that meant: one check-in in the morning of our Nova Scotia Government Website, one check of social media, scrolling right on by posts about the virus and instead only looking at positive stories, and one evening check-in of a reliable news source.

Avoid getting your news from memes, and do some research to ensure that the source of information is a credible one. Determining what is reliable can be tricky. CBC is a well-respected news outlet, and they have put together an excellent article helping readers demystify misleading information, and they include a list of fact checking sites:

It is also possible to take more control by curating your social media. You can manage your news feeds by un-following certain groups or people, and by hiding stories so that they don’t come up again when you scroll next time. Facebook and Google have “learned” what interests you and also what frightens you based on what you have searched or clicked on the past. As an example, I clicked on a paint by number ad and now Facebook appears to be on a mission to help me become the next Maude Lewis. That means that if you are craving uplifting, heartwarming, or funny stories and you actively look for them, they will show up more often in your feeds or searches.

If you choose to start an “Information Diet” it is likely that you will notice an urge to check and that urge will show up a lot. It’s part of human nature to check for reassurance,but we can fall into the trap of doing it too much. It’s helpful to have a plan. For example, if the urge shows up you can notice it and remind yourself why you are trying this diet, talk to yourself (literally out loud if you want) and say “Not now”, and have a plan to do something from your “Can Do” list.  You can put your tablet, phone, or laptop out of sight, or place a note directly on them reminding you of your decision. Changing behaviours, especially in uncertain times, can be challenging, but it will get easier the more that you do it.  

While we stay close to home–and do our part to protect the health of our loved ones and ourselves–we also need to care for our psychological well-being. Now you have three proven self-care tips: focus on what you can do, set a routine, and manage your consumption of the news. Together, these tools will help you reduce the inevitable anxiety in these times of uncertainty.

Written By- Lori Parker, Registered Psychologist