It's Not You, It's the News! Managing COVID-19 News Overwhelm and Anxiety - Counseling & Therapy Services - The Juniper Center

Yay! The news is saying it’s okay to be back out as restaurants and businesses reopen. Wait, no it’s not okay to be back out—there’s an upswing in COVID-19 infections. But only for certain states. Texas is closed. Montana is open.

By nature, our nervous system is trained to evaluate risk and inform our decisions. We avoid danger unconsciously 1000 times a day (think “don’t touch the stove,” “avoid the pothole,” etc.). The current overwhelm of information and misinformation, however, can trigger anxiety around decision making. And feeling anxious can make us bad decision makers.

What can you do?

Know it’s not you. It’s the news.

In a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal, the front page said that restaurants re-opening had caused a surge in COVID-19, suggesting going out was not safe. One page later, “large gatherings of protesters did not yield a raise in new infections” was the headline, which sounded reassuring that being in public was okay. And that was within a single publication. A CNN headline talks of a spike with a million new cases. The same day, Fox News says COVID-19 death numbers generate debate over accuracy.

On top of the news outlet, consider who is speaking and how that might frame what they are saying. Not all sources carry the same credibility. Is it a medical professional? Front-line worker or someone who has lost a loved one? Political pundit? Is the story about economic recovery? That last one is a valid concern, even as it brings yet another lens to frame the headline.

Find the Facts

The CDC* has a series of documents with guidelines for a variety of settings, from offices to health clubs to gatherings and more. (See those here.)

However, as the CDC notes, “Because COVID-19 virus circulation varies in communities, these considerations are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which gatherings must comply.”

That means you need to know what is happening in your state. Here are the guidelines for Illinois, where The Juniper Center is located. You can find links to your own state’s regulations here.

Take a Break

While it may be tempting to consume the news 24-7 during a crisis, so many conflicting announcements can increase your stress levels. Just as parents think about limiting screen time for their children, consider reducing your own exposure to media.

Figure out what’s right for you.

Businesses reopening are complying with local rules about mask wearing and distancing. But many of us have extenuating circumstances, be it age, compromised immune system or other underlying factors. That leaves us constantly making individual decisions related to our own comfort level, around what used to be the simplest of daily activities. The resulting anxiety or even “analysis paralysis” is understandable. Talking to a licensed, professional can help you sort through your thinking and feelings and come up with a game plan for action. Contact us to get started.


*This article originally appeared in The Juniper Center’s bi-weekly Tension Tamers eNews that went out July 14. On July 15 the Trump administration ordered hospitals to send data on coronavirus patients directly to the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington rather than to the CDC.

First publicly posted on LinkedIn, here:


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