Should I Watch the News, or Avoid It? How to Stay Sane (Yet Informed)

Susana Rinderle
6 min readNov 27, 2023

“I’m SO STRESSED OUT!” she said. “I’m really upset about what’s going on. I can’t believe what they’re doing!” Carol (not her real name) sighed, then paused. We stayed silent, giving her space. She put her head in her hands and her tone changed from frustrated to defeated: “I don’t know what to do. How do you all handle this stuff?”

As a trauma-informed professional coach, my clients often express anguish like Carol’s during our sessions. This is truer nowadays than it was a few years ago. But in this case, I was a participant in a volunteer-led support group. I could feel parts of me wanting to fix Carol, but I’ve learned that people — including me — don’t always want (or need) to be fixed. Also, giving unsolicited advice can be deeply disrespectful.

But Carol had asked for input, so when it was my turn, I said, “What works for me is boundaries. I don’t watch the news because it’s too debilitating, and almost never provides new or useful information. Protecting myself this way allows me to stay healthy-enough and show up for others.”

“But I have to watch!” Carol responded. “I feel like I must witness! The suffering needs to be witnessed by people who care.” Her body language shifted — now she was both frustrated and defeated.

I didn’t respond and simply held space for her feelings. She’d asked for feedback and in that moment, mine hadn’t landed. However, if she’d been my coaching client, I might have asked next: What part of you feels compelled to witness others’ suffering? What’s important to you about this witnessing? And then: What would happen if you didn’t witness others’ suffering? Or perhaps: What does this witnessing cost you?

I’ve been struck by how many people — mostly women — are deeply affected by current events yet seem unable to peel themselves away from the news. Right now, in late 2023, it’s Palestine, or Ukraine, or Trump’s impending trials, or environmental degradation in any number of places. Next year it will likely be another, or additional, set of tragedies, troubles, and injustices. This is the reality of the metacrisis.

But when presented with the option to not constantly consume such news, people often resist, stating either moral duty like Carol’s compulsion to “witness”, or the need to “stay informed”. What’s curious to me is that while these folks seem unable to restrict what their eyeballs consume, they are often very discerning about what their mouths and stomach consume.

However, there’s a parallel. What we see and hear is equally toxic to our well-being as what we eat and drink. What we allow into our psyches can kill our hearts and souls just like bacteria and poor-quality food can kill our bodies.

I’d therefore like people to consider avoiding the news for the following three reasons:

  • It’s hurting you more than it’s helping you (or anyone else). I see lots of stress, pain, and suffering in those who are compelled to consume lots of news — and watch the videos, look at the pictures, and read the details. This consumption doesn’t make them feel better. It doesn’t make them more effective at work or with causes they care about. It doesn’t equip them to show up better for their loved ones. It does make them feel more angry, afraid, powerless, and mistrustful. While none of those feelings are bad, they become exaggerated and chronic. This isn’t healthy for our minds, bodies, hearts, or relationships.
  • It’s brainwashing you. There are horrible things going on around the world, in our country, and next door in our neighborhood, but we’re only seeing a small fraction of it in the news. There are also beautiful, inspiring, loving, and wondrous things going on all around us. Overconsuming mainstream news dramatically skews our thinking about the world, humanity, and ourselves. In fact, it narrows our sense of reality itself from a vast open sky to a tiny keyhole. This is dangerous for us as individuals, as a society, and as a species — especially when the ultimate goal behind such news is to sell us something.
  • It’s hurting the world more than it’s helping it. Being compelled to witness others’ suffering doesn’t relieve their suffering, but it does add to ours. How does that serve us, collectively? Who, then, will relieve our pain? Minding our news diet enables us to be good stewards of our collective psyche! It makes us more ecological with our “stuff”. It keeps us from being constantly hijacked and derailed. And it allows us to be more clear-minded, clean-intended, discerning, and effective in the ways we do take action to alleviate suffering.

“Staying informed” is an honorable goal, and an important part of being a responsible community member and participating in democratic governance. However, the question for those who insist on compulsively overconsuming news to stay informed is: “stay informed about what?”

It’s crucial that we be more discerning. Here are five ways to be discerning, have boundaries, and stay informed about what’s truly important:

  1. Set alerts from a credible, non-extreme news source so you get notified of anything major, important, or new. I get mine from NPR and Reuters.
  2. Don’t watch the videos, look at the pictures, or read the details. You do not need to watch video of another Black man being murdered, look at photos of dead or terrorized children, or read detailed accounts of women being assaulted. Our brains register videos and photos similarly to real-life experiences, and they add to the trauma and stress load in our nervous systems. You don’t need to consume images or details to “be informed” or get the gist. Protect your heart, mind, and soul. Even as an anti-racist, I still haven’t seen the video of George Floyd’s murder. I haven’t watched any footage of the January 6th insurrection, and yet I’m very well-informed about what happened, the implications, and the consequences.
  3. Rely on word of mouth. If it’s major, important, or new, you’ll hear about it from trusted friends, colleagues, or family. I’ve learned about a few events this way — most recently the mass shooting and manhunt in Lewiston.
  4. Get your suffering witnessed and heal your pain. What lies under the compulsion to witness, heal, or fix others is often our own unwitnessed pain, unfelt feelings, and unprocessed trauma. As we experience (ongoing) healing and receive support, we’re less likely to project our unmet needs on others, and more able to feel and express “clean” compassion and empathy. I typically receive healing and support from therapists, support groups, self-help books, select friends, and time outdoors with non-human species.
  5. Be curious and self-compassionate with your FOMO. The compulsion to “stay informed” is often a social need more than an intellectual one. We don’t want to be left out of the group. We don’t want to come across as “out of it” or “misinformed” (read: “stupid”). While humans are neurologically and biochemically wired to belong, and therefore belonging is essential to our health and happiness, trying to constantly be “in the know” overwhelms our nervous systems and impairs our judgment. Caring for those parts of us who are afraid of being rejected and alone is the antidote. Becoming secure enough to say, “No, I didn’t watch that video”, or “I didn’t see the photos, what did I miss?” is as critical to your well-being as saying “no, thank you” to alcohol, drugs, gluten, dairy, or whatever else hurts your body. And anyone who disrespects your boundary by pressuring you, belittling you, or making fun is also hazardous to your health.

Yes, the world is on fire. Yes, it’s hard to be a human right now. We’re in an extremely difficult phase as a species, and our survival will depend on our ability to make dramatic changes to our way of life in the next few decades.

But we won’t make those changes well without also changing the ways we think and behave. That work starts now. Protecting our tender hearts, creative minds, and expansive souls by limiting their access to traumatic news is “making a difference”, because it preserves the best of humanity. And that is worth saving.

Hey! Want to work on your stress, boundaries, or eco-anxiety? I can help. Just drop me a line, or book a call.



Susana Rinderle

I write about civilization, personal healing, dating, politics, and the workplace. You know, light topics! I'm a trauma-informed coach.