It’s easy to get caught up in scary headlines and the constant bombardment of information on our phones, computers, TVs, and social media networks. While staying informed is vital, it’s also important to temper the volume and frequency of the news we take in.
Over my years of watching and studying unsettling news about crime, mass shootings, police shootings, civil unrest, cybercrime, and other safety-related issues, I’ve had to learn how to engage with this news without it consuming my life, my spirit, and my ability to live without fear.
Here are a few things I do to maintain a balance between how bad the world seems and how bad it really is.
After 9/11, I couldn’t stop watching the news, reading reports, and listening to the harrowing stories of survivors, mourners, and rescue workers. I fell into a depression. To find my way back, I quit all news cold turkey. A difficult choice for a former journalist. But it saved me. Now, I enforce strict guidelines about when and how I consume news.
- Use screen time limits on your devices to restrict headline scrolling, social media browsing, and other activities that can pull you into that dark rabbit hole of news overwhelm.
- Check the news sources you rely on. Avoid going to social media as your main source. News shared through the lens of friends, family, celebrities, and influencers can be designed to get your clicks. That means social media news is often more sensationalized than other news sources and often highlights the most alarming information.
- Find the good news. It’s not all gloom and doom. We need balance. Find sources of information that share feel-good stories that make you smile and feel better.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is how out of sync our perceptions can be compared to reality. Every year, in our State of Safety survey, we ask Americans how safe they feel and if they think crime is increasing or decreasing. Overwhelmingly, Americans think crime is on the rise. But the truth is that property crime has been on a steady decline for nearly 30 years, and violent crime has only seen minimal bumps over a couple of years in that same time frame.
The takeaway? Balance those sensationalized and worrisome reports you see with the facts behind them. Things like mass shootings and kidnappings are terrible, but they aren’t as common as it seems. These are outlier events—that’s why they still warrant headlines and grab our attention.
The easiest way to spiral into a paralysis of anxiety is to keep your fears and concerns to yourself. Whether talking to friends and family or seeing a professional counselor or therapist, taking those thoughts out of your head helps you put them in perspective. It also enables you to let them go.
One of the best ways to feel safer is to be proactive. There’s not much we can do about existential threats from global extremists. Still, there’s a lot we can do about tangible threats like food insecurity, homelessness, illiteracy, and other real deficiencies we see all around us every day.
- Find a cause that speaks to you, seek out an organization or group dedicated to that cause, and sign up to volunteer. Engaging with others who care about the same things while working to make a difference can go a long way to boosting your sense of security.
- Connect spiritually. No matter your beliefs, connecting to something bigger than ourselves is comforting, freeing, and strengthening. Whether it’s prayer, meditation, or walks in nature, find a way to tap into a greater force. And if you find others to join you, even better.
- Start moving. Physical activity is a great way to get out of our heads. You don’t have to run a marathon to get the benefits of endorphins and regular exercise. Dance around the house with your kids, work in the yard, walk the dog, or coach a youth sports team. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you jump in body and soul. It’s so fulfilling to feel exhausted after exertion—and there’s no room left to dwell on all the “what-ifs” out there.