From our phones to our television, the past few months have been all about health-related news. Since the outbreak of Coronavirus in India, we’ve also paid more attention to health news in order to understand the novel virus and how to prevent infection. Unfortunately, this means that most of us have been exposed to negative health news on a constant basis. Keeping ourselves up-to-date by following the news has given us a greater understanding of Coronavirus but at the same time, negative health news has also affected our mental health.
We spoke to Kamna Chhibber, Head of Department, Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram to understand the mental health effects of constant exposure to negative health news and how to deal with it.
Mental health effects of negative health news
According to Kamna, there are three prime ways in which negative health news can affect our mental health:
1. Worrying about future plans
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has added to stress levels, especially due to its unpredictable nature. Kamna Chhibber said, “Everyone makes plans. We all have a certain vision for our future, be it personal or professional. Unfortunately, the majority of people have either put a pause or have had to change their life plans. Listening to the news about new variants which might be more dangerous or predictions of multiple Coronavirus waves only enhances this sense of worry. It can make one feel dejected and disappointed.”
2. Feelings of helplessness and restlessness
Most of the news we’ve heard about the Covid-19 pandemic has not been too optimistic, be it new variants or the number of rising cases. According to Kamna, “Health news about the pandemic often adds to feelings of helplessness. People are already suffering from restlessness due to not knowing when this will come to an end. When they surround themselves with negative health news, they might start to worry about multiple things like whether they’re doing enough to protect themselves or what will happen if they don’t have access to healthcare facilities. It might make one lose any amount of optimism and motivation.”
3. Isolation and loneliness
With each news update, it becomes clear that it is still best to follow the social distancing protocol to prevent infection. This is, however, exacerbating feelings of loneliness and isolation. Initially, people were enthusiastic about video calls and social media updates. But, this trend has definitely seen a dip and many people have also experienced a narrowing of their social circle. Kamna said, “It is important to observe social distancing but many people are reporting that not being able to meet friends and family is weighing down their emotional health. Measures like work-from-home have also caused a disruption of a normal routine.”
How to deal with it
Kamna Chhibber explained that these 3 things can be done to mitigate the mental health effects of negative health news:
1. Mental breaks
It is extremely important to take a break, according to K. She recommends disconnecting from social media and work for a certain amount of time each day to prevent burnout and negativity. Be it 10 minutes or one whole hour, make sure you’re indulging in leisure activities like watching television or going for a jog.
2. Pay attention to the good
There’s been no dearth of health news that can send one into a panic but when negativity surrounds us, we need to remember the good things that have happened. From witnessing strangers helping strangers find a job to having the opportunity to spend more time with family due to working from home, we need to hold on to hope and optimism. Kamna suggests feeling gratitude towards the small joys of life. This will provide a boost to your mood!
3. Taking responsibility and observing precautions
Whenever you feel mentally low, it is important to realize that you can take an active part in reducing infections simply by observing precautions. So, ensure that you’re wearing your mask and washing your hands regularly. It will give you mental peace knowing that you are doing everything to protect yourself and your loved ones from the pandemic.
It might not be possible to completely turn away from health-related news in these times but you can deal with it using these simple tips recommended by Kamna.