How to stay informed about coronavirus without terrifying yourself

Open up a newspaper, visit a news site or turn on the TV, and you’ll see the end of the world is nigh. And, of course, the COVID-19 coronavirus is serious business, especially if you are in one of the vulnerable categories.

But that doesn’t mean you need to panic. In fact, panicking about anything usually just makes things worse. So, how do you stay informed about the rapidly spreading disease without succumbing to media terror?

Get coronavirus news, avoid panic

There are several key ways you can stay up to date on important coronavirus news while also staying sane. These tips should help keep you informed while you keep your cool.

Switch off the news channels

TV news channels must keep something on the screen at all times. And when it comes to a big story like the coronavirus pandemic, they’ll keep upping the ante, like a Hollywood blockbuster.

Even in normal times, this never-ending buzz of constantly rising stakes is enough to turn people into paranoid idiots, panicked by “issues” that scarcely matter, even if the 24/7 news channels offered non-hyped coverage. And it’s not just Fox News. The other purpose of a 24-hour news channel is to offer a place to get a quick update, anytime you tune in. This requires repetition, which brings its own way of reinforcing panic.

Combine this with the fact that pretty much no TV channel exists that doesn’t have an agenda. The idea that you’ll get neutral news from the TV is a joke. Avoid it, and instead …

Go to the source

The best way to stay informed, and get just the facts, is to do what good journalists do: Go to the source. If you want solid coronavirus news, that means going to the World Health Organization and, in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These are good sources for news and advice, and also the most likely to be neutral when it comes to reporting the facts.

On the CDC’s coronavirus page, you’ll find out about COVID-19 symptoms, how to prevent illness, what to do if you are sick, and whether you should be wearing masks when you go out. (Short answer: No, unless you are sick or a caregiver.)

These trustworthy sites also serve up regular status updates, which will prove much more useful to you than frenzied “news” stories from the TV and internet.

Other countries have their own health organizations, either government-run or otherwise connected with the government. In Germany, for example, it’s the Robert Koch Institute. Check the government website in your own country to find your local source.

Forget about coronavirus for most of the day

Freaked out by coronavirus news? Don't worry about COVID-19 (at least not too much).
Don’t worry.
Photo: Kevin Jarret/Unsplash

It’s important to stay informed, but it’s also important not to scare yourself and end up depressed. That’s why you should read the facts, and check in once a day, but then try to forget about COVID-19. Constant reading about coronavirus panic buying will only make you want to go and join the mobs. Reading about how coronavirus is wrecking the economy is probably even scarier for most people than the disease itself.

Focus on what you can do, and try to minimize thinking about what you can’t. Keep yourself safe, try to avoid catching or spreading the disease, consider working from home if possible (we’ve got some tips for that), and probably stay away from group gatherings. (Check with the CDC or WHO for actual advice on that.)

“Carrying on as normal” isn’t really a good plan right now, but neither is panicking or driving yourself nuts with worry.

Instead of coronavirus news, read a book

Don’t ignore the COVID-19 pandemic, but don’t dwell on it, either. I know that’s easier said than done, but avoiding the constant drip feed of hype, even from good news sources, is a first step. Indeed, maybe it’s time to get off the internet and read a book instead. (I recommend Station Eleven, Dog Stars and Far North if you’re in the mood for a bit of post-apocalyptic reading.)

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