What Now 2 Do: The Coronavirus Breaking News Edition

We wrote yesterday on some strategies to see us through being holed up in the Coronavirus flattening experiment. Today some thoughts on tactics for achieving those strategies.

The following tactics on mental hygiene are paraphrased from a series of tweets by Carl T Bergstrom, a professor at the University of Washington / Seattle.   He shares common sense guidelines to counter media frenzy and misinformation:

1.    The Coronavirus (alternatively “COVID19” or the “Wuhan Pandemic”) is scary and the pace of breaking news can feel overwhelming. For your own mental wellbeing, if you are not tracking the disease in a professional capacity, consider a more tempered approach.

2.    Fast as news may be breaking, the COVID19 pandemic is not like a natural disaster, act of war, or terrorist incident.  Nothing major changes over any twelve or even twenty-four hour period. Today’s news was unsurprising to professionals monitoring the situation.

3. To control COVID19 anxiety, try to avoid being pulled into the rapid news cycle. In a slow-motion crisis like the COVID19 pandemic, the 24-hour news cycle is exhausting. You don’t need this hour’s update. For the sake of your mental and emotional health, be intentional about your media consumption. No matter how many press conferences may be taking place, there is nothing that you are going to learn this afternoon to make you safer than you would be if you learned it tomorrow morning.

4.    Pick a time to get your updates, preferably once a day, maybe before work or maybe after dinner. For the rest of the day, don’t get drawn in. You don’t need to. Block the COVID19-related hashtags if you have to. Otherwise it can easily become an obsession.

5. Ignoring so-called ‘breaking news’ improves the quality of information that you are receiving. Day-old information from trusted fact-based news sources is far more valuable than the latest rumor on social media.

6. Watch less news. Consume less Facebook and Twitter. Interview and opinion shows on TV and talk radio that add to one’s understanding of the situation can be valuable. But watching depressing, panic-inducing news about COVID19 24/7 will only make you jittery, anxious and depressed. It’s good for the new networks’ ratings, but bad for your mental health.

This all can feel downright scary. But it’s something that we can manage as a community. It’s not going to go away quickly, so think now about how you can stay happy as well as healthy over the coming months. That includes intentional management of your interactions with the news.

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