As PR pros, we are reading the news constantly. It’s not only beneficial for our jobs, but it also makes us more informed citizens, stimulates our brains, and allows us to continue learning about the world. For myself and many PR pros, lifelong learning is something to value and enjoy. However, all this reading and learning can be overwhelming and worrisome, especially when the news is so negative. Political division. War in Ukraine. COVID-19. If the walls in my car could talk, they’d say: “Who are you talking to?!”
We have a natural tendency to pay attention to negative information. It’s called negativity bias, and it’s human nature. It’s why that one sarcastic comment someone left on your Instagram still bothers you days later. 10 people said nice things, but all you can think about is Jenny’s emoji! This carries over to the news industry. Media outlets want to attract our eyeballs, and we’re suckers for a negative story. In this way, reading the news all day may actually paint an inaccurate picture of the world.
Don’t get me wrong: reading the news makes you a more informed citizen. But also, you should remember that the news is not a representative sample of what’s going on in the world. There are no data scientists carefully curating a statistically significant, simple random sample of world events for you, or your social media timeline.
If the news is putting a strain on your mental health, don’t worry. It’s natural. And no, you don’t need to go off the grid! You might just need to take some proactive steps to improve your mental health. As an avid consumer of news, here are some tips that help me:
HumanProgress.org is a great place for a reality check. According to the United Nations, from 1990 to 2015, more than 1.25 billion people were lifted out of extreme poverty. That equates to over 138,000 people every day for 25 years! Of course, current events have impacted global poverty, and the effects are still being tabulated, but the overall point remains true: Great things are happening every day, and we almost NEVER hear about it!
Start the Day with Something You Enjoy.
Like many PR pros, I’m subscribed to a lot of newsletters, so I often wake up to email notifications with headlines about Putin, COVID-19, and more. This is not going to start your day on a good note. To mentally prepare for the day, I like to get to the office early, drink coffee, use the office gym and play a couple games of pool before work. After some time doing what I enjoy, I feel refreshed and ready to start my day! For someone else, it may be yoga, a run, meditation, or a good book. Find your thing and squeeze it in! You’ll be happier, healthier, and maybe even a better coworker.
Read Good News, Too.
Remember when Jim from The Office single-handedly lifted all our spirits during the pandemic with Some Good News? Aside from John Krasinski’s natural charisma, his channel was so successful because people are CRAVING good news! Many national and local news outlets have a section dedicated to uplifting stories, and in addition to lifting your mood, these can be great places to pitch your clients. For example, we recently secured a positive news story with ABC Action News in Tampa Bay, FL for Rose Marie Ray, an 81-year-old grandmother and triathlete who was recognized as a Humana Game Changer at the 2022 National Senior Games. Research shows that positive news stories – such as Rosie’s – put people in a better mood and motivate them to take positive action in their own lives.
Connect In-person When You Can.
At Coyne PR, we put a strong emphasis on work-life balance and offer employees work-from-home flexibility, but I personally find going into the office every day and interacting with coworkers is critical for my mental health. Plus, attending fun events in-person – like our St. Patrick’s Day celebration, Take Your Child to Work Day, or the office pool tournament – makes memories and builds culture. By connecting with our community, coworkers, friends and family, we focus a little more on our immediate circle of influence and a little less on the problems around the world that we can’t control.
A growing number of studies have shown that gratitude has profound mental health benefits, and those that practice gratitude regularly are happier and less depressed. Gratitude can come in many forms, such as journaling, prayer, or even telling others how much you appreciate them. I recently started writing three things I’m thankful for every morning, and I find it helps me be present, stop comparing myself to others, and set a positive tone for the day.
As communications professionals, we should never stop learning and growing, but it’s also important to balance out the bad news with some positivity to help us maintain good mental health. Whatever method you choose, I’m thankful you read this blog post!