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Choosing sources of information carefully is critical to COVID-19 mental well-being

In the midst of COVID-19, it is increasingly difficult to avoid the bleak headlines and bright-red news banners. Staying informed is, after all, one way many of us try to win back a semblance of control. But while it’s natural to seek information about this unfolding public health crisis, we must also take steps to protect our mental health.

With guidance from Dr. Keith Dobson, clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Calgary, we have compiled the following tips to help Canadians protect their mental health as they strive to safeguard their physical well-being and that of their loved ones.

  1. Understand the fight-or-flight response
    The brain is continuously seeking new informational cues to re-assess the threat level. Unfortunately, if we bombard ourselves with COVID-19 details, headlines, and images, we reinforce the threat signal and perpetuate the stress response. Remember, the information we allow in will affect how we feel – and we should monitor that intake with care.
  2. Be selective about news sources
    Where we seek information matters! Credible sources, such as the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization give us plain facts to counteract the sensationalism and fear-provoking imagery found in other sources.
  3. Consider the practical value of the information
    Not all information is created equal. Where possible, focus on the facts of the story, not the extraneous details or peripheral images.
  4. Don’t discount the power of language
    Although it may be difficult, it’s important to see through the sensationalistic language and focus on the message and use the practical takeaways. If a particular news source use a lot of alarmist language, consider avoiding that outlet altogether.
  5. Set boundaries on news consumption
    Try limiting your updates to between one and three designated times per day. In the interim, make a concentrated effort to place your attention elsewhere. When it’s time to re-engage, it won’t take long to catch up.

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