No matter which candidate you voted for during the 2016 presidential election, the winner was clear: the news industry.

The never-ending political turmoil created an insatiable hunger for news. Subscription numbers exploded, with major publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reaping the rewards. The New York Times’ digital subscriptions increased by 276,000 in the fourth quarter of 2016, making it the paper’s best quarter for digital growth since 2011.

While shareholders celebrated, the steady diet of doom and gloom started to build palpable tension in U.S. homes. The political brouhaha caused many people to become hooked on excessive news consumption. Similar to other addicts, we can’t see how this behavior is slowly destroying us.

It’s time for a countrywide intervention.

Danger: News Ahead!

“Fear” has become a bit of a buzzword. This is particularly true for the millions of people who were traumatized by the events of Nov. 8, 2016. Skeptics might suggest this reaction is unfounded, but that doesn’t lessen the stress and anxiety some people experience.

When our personal well-being is challenged, our brain goes through numerous responses — including fear. The closer we are to a potential threat, the more apt we are to trigger intense emotionssuch as worry and fear. Even if we aren’t cognizant of what’s happening, this subconscious reaction automatically occurs.

What fuels our “fight or flight” adrenaline rush? It starts with the proximity of a threat. The closer something feels to us, the more likely we are to experience a traumatic response. The nonstop “Breaking News” banners and comments from political pundits make it sound like we’re moments away from destruction at any given moment.

The intensity of a situation is the next major factor in defining a threat. Remember the worldwide pandemic that was supposed to occur in 2014 because of West Africa’s Ebola outbreak? The public braced itself for a threat that never came to fruition — the fear was all for naught. Many people were left shaken and emotionally scarred.

Next, we need to consider the immediacy of a threat. Our threat detection system is triggered when it feels a harmful event or action is imminent. Nothing was more immediate the morning after the presidential election than its outcome, and media coverage of political events has been ceaseless in the weeks and months that have followed.

The final nail in the coffin of fear responses is the probability of something happening. Listen to the news or read dire Twitter feeds, and you might become convinced the world is crumbling outside your door.

A Link Between Fear and PTSD

Some people can consume political news without an unreasonable fear response, but others take everything they read or hear as a direct threat. It’s intense. It’s immediate. It’s close. News addicts find themselves on a roller coaster that leaves them on high alert for days. This eventually sparks a systemic breakdown that can lead to clinical depression and anxiety.

It’s natural to experience fear at certain points in our lives. But what happens when fear is sustained or brought on by an event so traumatic that it shakes us to our core? At that point, post-traumatic stress disorder enters the mix. About 8 percent of the population struggles with sustained fear.

Much of what we know about PTSD is based on 9/11 research. In the wake of the attacks, the entire country watched painful, distressing, intense, and terrifying moments on repeat. Fear became an everyday emotion, and PTSD symptoms chipped away at people’s ability to participate in work or life. One survey found people who repeatedly watched footage of victims leaping from the World Trade Center had higher instances of PTSD and depressionmonths after the attack.

Considering the serious consequences of a news-heavy diet, we might want to pump the brakes on activities that erode our quality of life.

Reasonable Limits for Lasting Relief

Is your daily routine dominated by CNN, The New York Times, Fox News, and The Washington Post? You might have a problem. Even if you aren’t ready to go cold turkey, you can still make positive changes to take control of your free time and improve your morale.

1. What Would Groucho Do?

Consider this snippet of dialogue from a classic film in which Groucho Marx plays a doctor:

Patient: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” (Patient moves his arm.)
Doctor: “Then don’t do that.”

Groucho’s response is so straightforward and true that it makes us laugh. Decrease your fear and stress by eliminating things that cause you to feel that way. Limit your news consumption, avoiding overexposure or topics that you find particularly stressful.

If you feel a compulsion to stay on top of current events, get a quick taste of the latest updates and then move on to other activities. You might allot five or 10 minutes to television news each day, or you might limit yourself to only reading the first few paragraphs of any given article. These small steps will reduce the severity and duration of your exposure.

2. Arm Yourself With Knowledge

We’ve heard a lot about “alternative facts” and “fake news” over the past few months. It’s become increasingly difficult to know what’s real and what isn’t. It’s our duty to ask questions and seek information from multiple sources before we jump to any conclusions.

An oft-repeated phrase in the journalism world rings true: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” Don’t assume anything or falsely conflate stories that aren’t interconnected; critically evaluate what’s going on around you, and try to find original sources.

Don’t forget that many media personalities have personal biases. Consequently, their journalistic tendencies might lean one way on the political spectrum. Stay away from the talking heads, and find true balance by arming yourself with knowledge.

3. Try Living and Loving

Once you kick the bad habit and aren’t spending every waking moment absorbing news, you’ll probably find yourself with some free time. Fill it with positive activities, routines, hobbies, social plans, and more. Taking care of yourself and the important people in your life can be a powerful defense against fear and anxiety.

Set an example for your friends and family by embracing the fact that people have different viewpoints. Stop debating everyone on “the other side.” When we become angry, anxious, or stressed, we end up hurting ourselves and our loved ones. Have a Facebook friend who continually harasses you and won’t give you a moment of peace? Your mental health could improve dramatically from a simple unfriending.

Our country was founded on the core values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If your life isn’t enhanced by watching as much news as possible, ditch the bad habit. Don’t allow headline after depressing headline to sap all joy from your life.

Modern news is built around viewership, readership, and ratings. Don’t be dragged down by the fearmongering and anxiety common in today’s media, allowing yourself to be led into a meadow flush with toxic grass. Seek cleaner, sweeter pastures where you can sate your appetite without worry.

Author's Bio: 

Bill Topaz, a publishing and content expert, is the president of, which offers high-quality healthcare information contributed by top researchers and experts from around the world. Bill is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. His career has focused on consumer, educational, and scientific/medical publishing in media corporations such as Tribune Company and Disney.