Feeling Anxious? Tips for Fighting Fear-Mongering

May 24, 2024

Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash

No doubt the world can be a scary place. There are legitimate dangers out there, threats to life, health, and sanity.


Every day I see headlines that use fear in order to get me to read on. Even perfectly innocuous information gets presented as if Something Very Bad is going to happen if I don’t read and heed. Nuance is lost. This barrage of fear-mongering produces in me a near-constant, low-level anxiety. I’ve noticed that I often feel physical symptoms of anxiety, like the clenching of my stomach muscles, a feeling of heaviness, even a tingly adrenaline reaction. I also often have a mental feeling of dread.

What I’m talking about here is not the very real and serious actual news regarding human beings who are living through war, natural disasters, or other terrible circumstances. What I’m talking about is the use of fear to attract attention to everyday matters. We are being made to be afraid of things we don’t need to be afraid of.

Why so much fear-mongering?

There’s a saying in journalism, “If it bleeds, it leads.” In other words, the more sensational (and scary) a story, the more prominent its place. Today we also have “click bait”—outrageous headlines intended to collect as many mouse clicks as possible. Add to that the algorithms of social media and other websites that continually offer up similar content to what we’ve already clicked on, distorting the reality of a situation or topic.

You could be excused for believing the world is simply horrible in every way.

One reason fear-mongering is so common is the sheer amount of content we see every day. Without fear, a topic/brand/story could get lost in the noise. Scary headlines say, “Hey, look at me!”  or, more commonly, “Hey, buy my products!”

We can fall for this tactic because we want to be in the know. We want to do what’s “right,” or we want to be “better safe than sorry.”

Antidotes to anxiety

I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of feeling anxious all the time. Here are some things I do to protect my mental state. (This is what I do; I’m not saying it’s right, or even right for anyone else.)

My first step is to reduce and curate my consumption of content, news, and headlines. This includes my phone’s news feed and my Instagram account. I read one local newspaper, subscribe to a news aggregator email (which gives me the option to skim headlines or dig deeper), and avoid news on TV. I also try to avoid the most sensational headlines and stories, and choose a few trusted sources of information to check in with.

Get offline and be with real people. Talk to them about their lives and activities. I am an introvert, so too much “people-ing” stresses me out, but I’ve found that having a conversation with a friend, or even just chatting with a random stranger often soothes my fears about how awful everything is. People are interesting, and at least 99 percent of the people I interact with are decent, not jerks.

Reframe a seemingly bad situation in a positive way. This is my super power and something I naturally do. I always try to focus on the best parts of a bad situation.

Stay in the present moment, rather than worry about what might happen. Truly pay attention, using all my senses.

Think over and record things that happen or things I notice, whether through journaling, or my Daily Delight Project. This helps remind me of the variety of human experience. A bonus is looking back over past journal entries—I’ve survived all the ups and downs of my life so far! 

Allow feelings to come and go without attaching to them. Rather than try to avoid fear and anxiety altogether, if I start to feel these feelings, I allow them in, notice them, and allow them to dissipate.

(Try to) freely admit that I don’t always fully understand something. I feel like this is true about more and more subjects all the time, and that concerns me. Until I remember that I don’t have to understand everything to behave according to two of my core values: kindness and curiosity. This relieves the pressure and anxiety of having to be “right.”

(Click here for additional ways to reduce anxiety and worry.) 

One of the challenges of 21st century living is sifting through the huge amount of information thrust at us every day, much of it screaming in our faces. I hope these suggestions help you take control of the noise. Let me know in the comments what strategies you use to reduce fear and anxiety in your life.