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Constant Negative News Reels and Secondary Traumatic Stress

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Today’s news headlines are rife with constant coverage of political scandals, hate crimes, assaults, the devastating consequences of a global pandemic, worsening natural disasters, and war. These events are not only traumatic for those directly affected but can also trigger a traumatic response to you by just hearing about them.

This is what’s known as secondary traumatic stress — or the emotional distress a person can experience after hearing about someone else’s first-hand traumatic experiences, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Secondary traumatic stress reactions can be especially troubling if you personally identify with the victim.

While you may not be able to immediately stop the flood of traumatic events that fill our news headlines and newsfeeds, you can take steps to manage your own emotional response. The first step is recognizing the symptoms of secondary traumatic stress. By being aware of the potential impacts and taking proactive steps to manage our exposure to negative news, we can mitigate the effects of constant negative news reels and secondary traumatic stress on our well-being.

Here are a few ways in which constant negative news reels can affect us:

  1. Emotional Distress: Continuous exposure to distressing news can lead to feelings of sadness, fear, anxiety, and helplessness. Graphic images or stories of violence, disasters, or tragedies can trigger emotional responses and cause significant distress.

  2. Increased Anxiety: Negative news can fuel anxiety by reinforcing a sense of danger and highlighting potential threats. It can make individuals excessively worried about their personal safety or the safety of their loved ones.

  3. Feelings of Powerlessness: Frequent exposure to negative news can leave individuals feeling powerless and overwhelmed. It can create a sense that the problems in the world are insurmountable, leading to a loss of hope and motivation.

  4. Compassion Fatigue: Continuously witnessing traumatic events through news coverage can lead to compassion fatigue. It occurs when individuals become emotionally exhausted and develop a reduced ability to empathize or respond compassionately to others' suffering.

  5. Sleep Problems: Consuming negative news just before bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns and result in insomnia or disturbed sleep. The content of the news can create anxiety or intrusive thoughts, making it difficult to relax and fall asleep.

Useful ways to stay informed without becoming too distressed

  1. Limit News Consumption: Set specific times for checking the news and avoid excessive exposure throughout the day. Consider using reputable sources and focus on getting a balanced view rather than dwelling on sensationalized or repetitive content.

  2. Choose Your Sources Wisely: Select news outlets that provide accurate and objective reporting. Avoid sources that thrive on fearmongering or sensationalism.

  3. Practice Self-Care: Engage in activities that promote relaxation and well-being. Exercise regularly, spend time outdoors, practice mindfulness or meditation, and maintain social connections with supportive friends and family.

  4. Establish Boundaries: Create boundaries around news consumption, both in terms of time and content. Avoid consuming distressing news before bedtime or in the hours leading up to sleep.

  5. Engage in Positive Actions: Actively seek out positive news or stories that inspire hope and resilience. Engaging in acts of kindness, volunteering, or supporting causes you care about can help restore a sense of agency and make a positive impact.

Remember, it's important to stay informed about current events, but finding a healthy balance and taking care of your mental well-being is equally crucial. If you find that constant exposure to negative news continues to affect you significantly, consider seeking support from a mental health professional who can provide guidance and assistance.

Do you find yourself constantly scrolling through what seems to be negative news reels on your phone or seeing them on television? And if so, do you feel this is having a negative impact on your day-to-day functioning? At bMindful Psychology we have trained mental health professionals who can help provide support. For more information please visit our website at or contact us directly on 0161 510 0111.

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