We have written before about the ways in which creating and sticking to a budget can improve your finances and protect your sobriety. In this entry, however, we want to talk about a different kind of budget: your personal news budget.

“Budget” is actually a term newspaper and magazine editors and newscast producers use to describe the list of stories they expect will be available for an upcoming publication or broadcast. Armed with a list of available stories, these editors and producers can make decisions about which stories will run. Those decisions are based on a number of factors, of course. What’s the most important news item of the day? For less important stories, how much space or time is available? How often has something been covered recently—and does it warrant additional coverage at this time?

That’s how the word “budget” is used in a newsroom. But we would argue that the idea of a news “budget” is also applicable for consumers of news—like you. And if you are a person in recovery from a substance use disorder, thinking carefully about your news budget is a great way to support your sobriety as well as your mental health.

Let’s take a look at why selecting and shaping a personal news budget might be a good idea.

There is a Surplus of News—And Too Much of it is Bad

News is available to us 24 hours a day each and every day. There is news on television, on the radio, and in newspapers and news magazines. Plus, there is a never-ending torrent of news online—on podcasts, in online papers and magazines, and via social media. On top of all that news, there is a seemingly infinite supply of opinions about the news—and you can find those opinions in all the same places you can find the news itself.

And let’s face it: A lot of that news is bad. And a lot of the opinions expressed about all of that bad news are delivered in an argumentative—even nasty—tone.

All this negativity can be hard for anyone to take—and for a person in recovery from a substance use disorder, it can be downright dangerous. That is because the onslaught of negative news can chip away at your mental health—and good mental health is essential to ongoing sobriety. When the news starts to contribute to symptoms of depression or anxiety, the headline suddenly becomes: Your sobriety is at risk.

It might seem like the logical answer to this danger is to cut yourself off from the news entirely. Even if that were easy to do, you might rightly hesitate to do it. After all, staying informed about what is happening in your community and the world is an important part of life. The news tells you things you need to know to make decisions about voting, to keep yourself and your family safe, and much, much more. 

So, instead of cutting yourself off from the news, make yourself a news budget.

News Budgeting Basics

The first step in making a personal news budget is to think about all the news you are currently consuming. The second step is to think hard about how much of that news is repetitive or focused on argument rather than reporting. And the third step is to identify the key sources of news that allow you stay informed without amping up your stress levels.

As a corollary to that third step, you may also want to consider when you get your news. Maybe listening to the news first thing in the morning stresses you out and ruins your morning. Maybe watching the news before bed makes it hard for you to sleep. Maybe checking the news during your lunch hour is your personal sweet spot. Because the news is readily available on-demand, it is possible to pick the time, place, and manner in which you interact with it.

You might find it valuable to write down your news budget in the same way you would write out a budget for your income and expenses. Having a written document can make it easier to stick to your plan. You budget, of course, will be unique to you, but here’s an example of how it might look:

My news budget:
  • Read the local news in the daily newspaper or online over breakfast
  • Listen to a short national and international news update via radio or podcast during my commute to work
  • Watch the local news broadcast in the evening on television or online
  • Set aside an hour or two on weekends to explore news in more depth—including seeking out opinions about topics of interest

Again, this is just an example to give you an idea of how you might proceed in a more mindful way as you seek out and engage with the news.

Good News: We Can Help

At Wooded Glen Recovery Center—located in Henryville, Indiana—we offer personalized residential treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. That is undeniably good news if you are struggling with drugs or alcohol. If you are ready to make a change, we are ready to help.