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5 tips for taking care of your mental health while following the news

The conflict in Israel and Gaza has dominated the news cycle for the last week. Turn on the TV or log on to any social media platform and you’ll be confronted with a barrage of horrific headlines. 

While staying informed is important, consuming an excess of graphic images and videos can negatively affect your mental health.

Media exposure to mass violence can fuel a “cycle” where the viewer is highly distressed by the news and that causes them to consume even more of it, according to a recent study.

“Nothing good” happens to your brain when you see violent images, says Iliyan Ivanov, a professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. 

For adults who have experienced trauma or who have mood disorders, the effects can be triggering.

“People with some level of anxiety might have some apprehension about what may come next because the situation is so fluid and uncertain,” he tells CNBC Make It. “There is always this sense like: ‘What else might be coming? Something terrible is going to happen.'” 

There are ways, though, to consume the news and still take care of your mental health.

1. Pick 2 to 3 reliable sources to follow

Read judiciously, says Alison Holman, a professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine. Holman researches trauma and media exposure.

“Identify sources of news that are reliable and trustworthy,” Holman says. “In other words, they provide actual news. What I recommend is you pick the top two, maybe three resources.”

2. Set a time limit 

You don’t need to consume hours and hours of coverage to be informed. “Put aside time in the day and say, ‘I’m going to spend 15 to 20 minutes reading about what’s going on so I know what’s happening,'” she says. “And then do it again in the evening.”

This isn’t about consuming less news, she adds. It’s about not consuming an excess. “It’s important that people not put their heads in the sand.”

Identify sources of news that are reliable and trustworthy. In other words, they provide actual news

Alison Holman

professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine

3. Opt for words, not pictures or video

4. Pay attention to your body 

Everyone’s needs and capacities are different. Oftentimes, your body will tell you when it’s time to log off and do something else, Holman says. 

“Are you starting to feel tension in your neck or shoulders?” she says. “Is your breathing becoming more shallow? You don’t want to let yourself get caught up where you’re barely breathing.

“Pay attention to the signals of what your body is telling you as you’re engaging with the news. You can identify what’s triggering you to have a strong reaction.” 

5. Give yourself chances to recharge

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