Why Highly Sensitive People Can’t Watch the News That Often

A highly sensitive person watches the news

Although sensitive people can’t control the chaos of a 24-hour sensational news cycle, you can control your participation in it.

It’s important to know what’s going on in the world, both locally and nationally. I like to stay informed and know what is going on. But I’ve had to significantly decrease the amount of news that I watch, especially this past year — the seemingly endless cycle of depressing news weighs heavily on me

As a highly sensitive person (HSP), the news can be a source of anxiety and sadness. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. According to a survey by Digital Third Coast, 65 percent and 67 percent of respondents reported feeling overwhelmed and burnt out by the news respectively. 

The topics discussed are rarely positive — the common news program is full of stories that are sensational, negative, and geared towards shocking the viewer, which is depressing. When I turn on the news, it is usually a continual swarm of death, graphic depictions, natural disasters, shootings, violence, and the like — which is overwhelming for HSPs. It seems like the newscaster regularly announces warnings of the graphic depictions that are going to be displayed. Taking all that in is of no benefit to me and my sensitive soul. Sometimes, it’s just too much to deal with. So the best thing to do is to cut back, and here’s why.     

Two Reasons to Cut Back on the News as an HSP

1. It may cause your overthinking mind to spiral.

As a sensitive person, I am a deep thinker by nature. I will mull over even the most mundane things. But deep thinking can turn into overthinking, which can be exhausting. 

Even though most news stories are only a couple of minutes long, the stories stay with me much longer. I’ll start ruminating about what was just broadcast. If there was a string of robberies in a neighborhood (that may or may not be near where I live), then I’ll start worrying if my property is safe. If someone was mugged, then I’ll wonder if it’s safe for me to be outside. 

And it seems others have the same habits as I do. A study shows that negative news can contribute to worrisome thoughts and the exacerbation of personal worries. So I have to do what I can to reduce this problem, and that may mean turning the TV off (or at least changing it to something light-hearted, like a classic sitcom).

2. It may cause your emotions to get out of whack.

My emotions can’t handle a repeated cycle of bad news. As an HSP, I process things more deeply than others. The emotions I feel can be more intense than most. So the negative news impacts me more than the average person. Many can just watch and go on about their day, no big deal. But I can’t. (Sometimes I wish I could). 

When I see a story about a “porch pirate” stealing packages from someone, I’m extra frustrated for the person who lost their property. When there’s a story about children being mistreated or subjected to violence, tears form in my eyes when the family members are interviewed. (It’s similar to how we HSPs are sensitive to violent movies; the news is like a real-life violent movie.)

When there is another mass shooting, my heart aches for the lives lost. When there’s another police shooting of an unarmed Black person, I feel a tornado of hopelessness, frustration, sadness, and despair. Since we sensitive types typically absorb other people’s emotions, I feel the emotions of the story as if they were my own — and that is a lot to handle. Unfortunately, it is easier for me to get caught in a swirl of negative emotions and become overwhelmed by them. 

Being sensitive is not a bad thing. It’s a wonderful thing how deeply we can feel… but it can also be overwhelming to the point of being detrimental to our nervous system. When things are good, it’s like being on cloud nine. But when things are bad, it sucks. (Science backs it up). So I have to do what I can in order to keep my emotions level, and that means changing the channel.

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How HSPs Can Watch the News Mindfully

Over time, there are a few things I’ve started doing that lessen the harsh impact that comes from watching the news. After all, self-care is very important for those of us who are highly sensitive

  • Evaluate your feelings beforehand to see if you’re in the right space for the news. Before I turn on the news, I do a self-check. Am I in the right space, mentally and emotionally, to watch the news? That answer will vary based on how my day went. If my work day was stressful and I need to decompress, then I know I’m not in the right headspace to watch the news, and I won’t. If I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, due to lack of sleep or discomfort, then I shouldn’t turn on the morning news because that will, more than likely, set a negative tone for the day. Now, I don’t have to feel 100 percent positive in order to watch the news, but if I’m feeling stressed, worried, or annoyed, then I know I should limit my news intake or not watch it at all that day.  
  • Reduce the amount of news you watch. Like many things in life, the key is moderation. I won’t watch the news every day. Plus, I find it repetitive (especially if I watch it in the morning and the evening). So instead of taking in a steady stream of bad news, I now find that 2-3 times per week is better-suited for me. I also set time limits for my news consumption: I usually stick with one 30-minute news program instead of watching back-to-back programs on different channels. I’ve found that this greatly reduces my HSP overstimulation.
  • Skim the news online instead of watching long news programs. Some days, maybe I just need to read the headlines. So skimming the news online is a quick and easy way to inform myself of what is happening. If it’s a good headline, then that’ll tell me all I need to know. If I want to know more, I’ll explore that story more. 
  • Watch local news instead of national programs. The type of news that I’m watching matters, too. So much of the news is infused with opinions that are fear-based, politically motivated, anxiety-driven, or just flat-out nonsensical. I don’t need that — I just need the facts. I can form my own opinion. I find that my local news stations are the best source of unbiased information.

All in All, It’s About Taking Care of Yourself

It’s easy to get caught up in a swirl of bad news. In order to combat the negative emotions that swell up within me, I need to take a proactive approach to making sure I’m healthy. So I need to do what brings me joy: exercise regularly, relax through restorative yoga, cook, listen to my favorite music, get outside, and so on. The negative emotions don’t hit as hard if I’m in a healthy space. It’s important to figure out which self-soothing tactics work for you.

These days, I’m working on finding a balance. I don’t want to be ignorant of what is going on in the world, but I have to do what I can to protect my mental and emotional health. I can’t control the chaos of a 24-hour sensational news cycle, but I can control my participation in it. I hope others who are highly sensitive will do the same.

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