Despite purging her social media feed of news, graphic designer Marie stumbled upon the report of a Filipino lawyer who died in a mistaken identity shooting in the U.S., bringing her to tears. As much as she wants to keep her socials light, she knows she can't escape what's happening around her.
In the post-COVID world where influencers, disinformation and propaganda are challenging what makes news and how it should be delivered, Marie, like many social media-savvy Filipinos, is looking for ways to consume hard news without getting triggered.
"I can't just be in a bubble. It's upsetting but I cannot just pretend nothing's happening because what would that make me?" Marie told reportr. The news purge got to a point when she failed to recognize outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte's voice.
Nearly four in 10 people from 46 countries avoid the news because they find it too depressing, according to a Reuters foundation study. That's up from nearly three in 10 people over five years.
"There's no such thing as good new or bad news, there's just simply news" and journalists can't sugarcoat the truth, said UP journalism professor Danilo Arao.
When is news triggering?
During times of uncertainties like the COVID-19 pandemic, watching the news or getting updates on social media gives people the feeling of being in control, said clinical psychologist Jacqueline Bullis. Too much information, however, can lead to anxiety.
The reaction to reading and watching the news depends on the individual, said Agnes Macalipay, professor and head of the Philippine Christian University psychology department.
"Nagiging negative siya kung 'yung isang tao may pinagdadaanan and then may mababalitaan na 'di magaganda na related sa pinagdadaanan n'ya," she said. "Instead na ma-relax 'yung tao, mas lalong naa-aggravate o napapalala pa dahil sa nababalitaan nila."
Dialysis patient Jennylin Bato said she would lose her appetite whenever she watches news about corruption allegations in PhilHealth. The accountant said she couldn't stand asking for help from an agency that is embroiled in alleged misuse of taxpayers' money.
"Sumasama loob ko tas mababasa ko pa mga trolls, napapa-argue ako, naninikip dibdib ko sa inis minsan tas naiiyak na lang kasi first time kong makaramdam ng ganitong lungkot kapag Pilipinas na ang pinag-uusapan," she told reportr. "Siguro sa sobrang dinidibdib ko 'yung nangyayari sa Pilipinas, bumagsak din 'yung resistensya ko lalo."
For news consumers, it's best to be selective about the information you're getting so you can protect your peace, said Bullis.
Journalists also have to "provide some glimmer of hope" for their audience by producing content that help the audience make sense of what's happening, said Arao.
"That's one way to make people more level-headed and more interested in reading the news no matter how depressing it may be," he said.
How to consume news without getting depressed
Here are some tips on how to balance getting the information you need from news while taking care of your mental health:
Find credible sources
Do these organizations have top-caliber journalists with clean track records? Is the news organization award-winning as an institution? Have they been fact-checked by independent organizations These can help you find reputable sources of news, said Arao.
Widen your sources
If interested in a particular issue, check out how different organizations, including international media, report the news. Alternative media, albeit limited in reach, can also provide context, he said.
Identify your triggers
It will help you be more in control over your worrisome thoughts, said Macalipay. If oil price hikes bring you stress, try to understand why it's happening in the first place. "Ngayon tataas siya, pero there's a possibility na bumalik sa normal 'pag natapos na 'yun lahat ng gulo. Matatapos din ito, sa ngayon hindi pa dahil may nangyayari," she said.
Allot time for worry
Schedule a "worry period" to help control the anxiety, said Macalipay. When you catch yourself worrying, list it down and go on your day. When your worry period comes, think of ways on how to alleviate or eliminate the problem instead, she said.
Seek professional help
If it causes depression, it's time to seek professional advice where counselors can help you make sense of what you're going through, said Macalipay.
Find a support group
Be with like-minded peers who understand what you're going through, said Arao. "It also takes a toll on the mental health of journalists if they are called liars, names, 'presstitutes.'"
Find time to "hibernate"
Deliberately avoid work so you can focus on rest, said Macalipay. "Sa break na ito, totally walang work-related [tasks] para mag-hibernate ka para pagbalik mo ng work, fresh ka ulit. Babalik ka sa situation pero at least kahit papaano ready ka na sumabak ulit."