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When Less News is Better For You

In these uncertain times, one way to keep your anxiety in check is to stay informed, right? Wrong: Focusing too much on the TV news can ratchet up tension.

Psychologists have found that while the act of watching television is physically relaxing (it lowers the heart rate), heavy viewing can have the opposite effect: Once you turn the set off, you'll likely feel zoned out and anxious. Factor in the way the networks often hype the news so that you feel you're missing something if you don't watch, and it's easy to see how tuning in too often or for long stretches can breed nervousness. To stay on top of current affairs without fueling anxiety:

Ration the info. "If you start feeling worried as you watch, you're overconsuming the news," says Charles Figley, Ph.D., a grief and trauma specialist at Florida State University School of Social Work in Tallahassee. Consistency can help you stay calm. The same goes for web browsing or poring over the newspaper. Read enough to satisfy your need to know, and then stop and do something else.

Choose a single, credible source. One TV network or radio program should be enough. Trying to process numerous stories from multiple angles can be exhausting and stressful.

Talk it over. When your child isn't nearby, air your anxiety with your spouse or a good friend  -- not just for the emotional support but also as a reality check. "Expressing concerns can help you put your fears in perspective," says Figley.

Stick to your routine. Keep meal- and bedtimes regular  -- for everyone. Family rituals comfort grown-ups too.

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