Brexit Burnout? Here Are 4 Ways To Cope With A Tumultuous News Cycle

Natasha Hinde

Much of the population is watching from the sidelines as Tory MPs resign left, right and centre, landing a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May just a day after cabinet agreed (in principal) to her Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.

The 585-page Brexit deal provides the basis of a legally binding treaty for the UK’s exit from the European Union and will cover topics such as the future rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals in the EU, as well as the UK’s £39 billion “divorce” settlement. 

But a lot is still unclear about the future of the current government and whether Parliament and the EU will actually accept May’s deal. Then there’s the actual Brexit transition period to worry about.

The tumultuous news cycle can feel hugely overwhelming. Professor Sarah Niblock, chief executive of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), said shock tactics used by the media don’t help either. “The dominant news value today is to concur up as much emotion as possible,” she said.

“There is a huge emphasis on negativity, shock value and worst-case scenarios, much of which is speculation to fill demand for rolling 24/7 coverage when actual facts and new events are thin on the ground.

“Couple that with the fact that stress makes us hyper-vigilant, always looking for threats, and it becomes a vicious cycle.”

[Read more: Anxious, worried, stressed: What is Brexit doing to our mental health?]

Dr Neil Lamont runs an emotional support service for EU citizens living in the UK via The Existential Academy in London. He said the 24 hour rolling news cycle has become a core part of life for many and ongoing news event like Brexit “can have a significant detrimental impact on one’s emotional wellbeing” – regardless of whether you voted Leave or Remain. 

Thankfully there are things you can actively do to switch off.

Identify Your Triggers

Being aware of how you feel and taking note of any particular triggers for strong reactions is a great starting point when it comes to taking a step back, a spokesperson from the Mental Health Foundation said. This way, you can figure out how to manage or steer clear of those triggers.

Limit News Notifications

Limiting your news intake is another important coping strategy (which might seem weird advice coming from a news site but your wellbeing is what’s most important). Dr Lamont recommends limiting how often, and for how long, you watch news each day. “Perhaps switch off the news alert notification on your phones,” he said.

The same goes for apps. Delete them if you’re feeling overwhelmed, advised the Mental Health Foundation spokesperson. “Deleting the apps and making the decision only to access our accounts in web browsers can be a good way to have more conscious engagement with the news.”

Prof Niblock said a good tip is to compartmentalise consumption and reaction to world events by devoting a set period of time a day to that – for example, half an hour after work. “Then make sure you balance that the rest of the time with positive interactions with others in person, exercise, family time and so on,” she said. “Don’t let it overwhelm your every waking thought.”


Don’t Get Sucked Into Arguments

Scrolling through Twitter, you’ll probably see lots of statements you disagree with. But think carefully before you wade in, advises the Mental Health Foundation. 

“We have to ask before commenting and committing our energy to something, whether or not this is likely to make us feel better or worse,” they said.

“Sometimes it’s better to resist the urge to immediately respond in a state of agitation and wait a couple of hours to see whether we still think it is worth responding to.”

Seek Out Or Ask For Support

If you are feeling overwhelmed and need to take things further than just being mindful or cutting down on news consumption, speaking to others about your feelings might just help – whether that’s a friend, family member of even perhaps a colleague.

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” said Prof Niblock. “Brexit is creating deep uncertainty across the entire fabric of life – from politics to economics to social stability. Psychotherapy tells us that we all have fundamental needs – to feel safe and secure is important. So, of course, we feel worn down by this constant barrage of disturbing world events over which we have little control.”

It is better to act early if you feel rising levels of stress. There are a range of online resources and apps available, plus effective psychological therapies available through the NHS.