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How To Prevent Media Overload During a Crisis

April 03, 2020

When a catastrophic event occurs, it's tempting to immerse yourself in round-the-clock coverage. You want to take in as much as you can, learning everything you can about this thing that has such a huge impact, but that's also full of unknowns.

Too much media exposure - including the varying and conflicting information - can get overwhelming and take your focus from family and work.  First, remind yourself of what you can and cannot control. There are ways to stay informed without being overcome by the wave of media that comes with a crisis. Here are some tips:

Learn about the facts. Look for trusted health care sources for information, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), state, and local government. Follow only one or two for updates. Limit the number of times each week that you check in.

Disconnect. Today’s news cycle is 24/7 and too much information can add to stress. Unplug and give yourself down time.

Keep on task. Try to read or listen to the news when it’s not in the way of your daily routine. Skip catching up on media updates right before bed.

Talk with a trusted peer. Family members or friends can make you feel less alone in your concerns. Even if you don’t see eye-to-eye, listen to what they have to say and why.

Check in with your loved ones. Make sure they’re coping well with concerns about the virus.

Help others (from afar). Call people. Smile and wave from a safe distance. Find ways to help others from home, like teaching someone how to pay their bills online.

Talking to kids about what they hear on the news. Take their concerns seriously. Kids are curious by nature, and they may want to talk to you about the things they’re hearing. Just talk with them openly and honestly.

Learn what you can about COVID-19 so you feel comfortable talking about it. This will help you put it in perspective for them.

Talk about plans that are in place to help keep everyone safe. Let them know the steps you are taking as a family to stay healthy, and what experts are doing to help keep everyone safe.

Be a good role model. Your children will be watching your reactions. Model good hygiene, reasonable precautions and a calm attitude.

If you need help
For immediate crisis counseling for emotional distress related to the virus, contact the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline, 24/7 at 1-800-985-5990. If you get your benefits through your employer, you may have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs help with a number of issues, including mental health and assistance with personal, family and work issues.

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Stay informed by checking these resources for up-to-date information about COVID-19, especially if you’re thinking about traveling.