Ease information overload

Your attention is precious.

Where you direct it is important for your mental health.

With so much information readily available, it’s easy to consume more than you’re able to process.
This is known as information overload.

It can leave you feeling confused, stressed and overwhelmed.

Here are ways to help ease information overload to support your mental health.

On this page

Set a goal before you search

Consider the credibility of information

Recognise and filter what doesn't feel good

Remind yourself you don't need to stay updated

Learn ways to cope with uncertainty

Be aware of natural bias

Limit your screen time

Communicate boundaries in conversation

It's easy to become side-tracked when you’re looking for information on a specific topic. This can lead you to spend time consuming content that’s not relevant to you, which can contribute to information overload.

Having clarity on what you’re looking for beforehand can help you stay focused.

  • Set a clear and specific goal for the information you’re looking for.
  • Try making a list of sources or types of sources you want to look at.
  • Avoid anything that won't help you achieve your goal.

Consider the credibility of information

Knowing that a source of information is credible can give you confidence that the content is likely to be accurate.
  • At the start of any search for information, aim to go to a source you’re familiar with and trust. If none come to mind, you’ll need to find one.
  • Before accepting anything as fact, always stop and question the credibility of the information and the source.

The following questions can help guide you.

  • What do you know about the person or organisation?
  • What reason or motive might they have for publishing this information?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Can you find other credible sources to validate and verify the information?

Recognise and filter what doesn't feel good

How information makes you feel can be a good gauge of whether it’s good for your mental health.

  • Be aware of how you feel during and after consuming or engaging with content.
  • Make a note of negative feelings and what might have triggered them. This could include the subject matter, the style of content or who published it.
  • Consider patterns that may emerge over time.

  • Once you have an idea of what content isn’t good for you, you can choose how much of it you will consume and how often.
  • Avoid, unfollow and unsubscribe from content you find triggering.
  • Find more of what makes you feel good.
  • Broaden your perspective by getting information from a range of places.

Remind yourself you don't need to stay updated

You may feel a need to frequently check news about a specific situation or event.

This may be because it’s something important to you. It may directly impact you or people you care about. It could simply be that a lot of people are talking about it, and you feel obliged to stay up to date.

It’s important to find a balance between staying informed and protecting your mental health.

Work out how much news is healthy for you

  • Start with a small amount of news that feels comfortable.
  • If you feel you need more information, you could try adding a small amount.
  • If you start to experience any negative feelings, it can be a sign that you’ve gone beyond the limit of what’s healthy for you.
  • The goal is to get to a point where you feel informed without compromising your mental health.

Distancing yourself from information that isn’t good for you doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you’re caring for your mental health.

Learn ways to cope with uncertainty

Exposure to information about things you can’t control can leave you feeling helpless and uncertain.

This can feel hard to manage.

Learning ways to cope with uncertainty can help ease those feelings and give you a stronger sense of stability.

Be aware of natural bias

Humans have natural biases. These can influence what information you give attention to and how you interpret it.

When you’re searching for or consuming information, it can help to be familiar with the following biases.

Negativity bias

We’re naturally more drawn to bad news than good news. Negative information is also likely to stay in our minds for longer than positive information.

If you find yourself compulsively searching for information out of fear or concern, this negativity bias may be part of the reason why. This is also known as doom scrolling.

Recency bias

We tend to place more importance on recent events or information.

Confirmation bias

We favour information that supports what we already believe. And we’re more likely to disregard information that conflicts with our beliefs.

Our natural biases not only influence how we approach information. They can also shape how organisations and media outlets create, prioritise and present information to us.

Limit your screen time

Phones, tablets, computers, and TVs can quickly connect you to information.

So, it can be tempting to turn to a screen whenever you feel the urge.

Not having healthy limits for your screen time can contribute to information overload. It can also decrease your time engaging and staying connected with those around you. And prevent you from being present. This can further impact your mental health.

Spending time on mobile devices can be especially tempting.

Here are tips to help keep your screen time at a healthy level for you.

Set aside dedicated screen time

Identify which apps you spend the most screen time on. Then set an amount of time per day that you’ll spend looking at them.

Consider what amount of time you believe is healthy. The time you spend shouldn’t affect other areas of your life or compromise your peace of mind.

Try these ways to reduce temptation outside of your dedicated time.

  • Turn off all notifications. Or reconsider which ones you feel are necessary.
  • Switch your device to silent or flight mode when you’re engaged in an activity.
  • Move your social media or other apps to the last screen on your phone. Or you can remove them from your device entirely.
  • Turn your device to greyscale mode to make app icons less appealing.

Screen time reporting can help you monitor your progress as you create new habits. Familiarise yourself with how to check it on your device.

Start your day screen-free

Avoid reaching for your phone first thing in the morning. This can help you limit your screen time and set a positive tone for your day.

It can help to try the following.

  • Turn your phone off before going to bed.
  • If you must leave it on, turn off all notifications or switch to flight mode.
  • Leave your phone far out of reach overnight.
  • Use a regular alarm clock instead of the one on your phone.
  • Make it a habit to do something else when you wake up. This can be as simple as drinking a glass of water.

Switch off before bed

Checking your phone, watching something, or responding to emails can keep your mind active or activate your emotions. This can delay you falling asleep.

Sleeping well plays an important role in supporting your mental health. It improves your mood, concentration and memory. It also helps you recover from stress.

Poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health.

Avoiding screens before bedtime helps you wind down for sleep and supports you getting good quality sleep. Try to switch off from screens at least an hour before you go to bed.

Communicate boundaries in conversation

If you’re talking with someone and the topic of conversation is making you feel overwhelmed, be honest with them. Respectfully let them know that you’d prefer not to talk about the subject.

Setting boundaries in this way can feel uncomfortable at first. Try to stick with it. Boundaries are key to maintaining healthy relationships and protecting your mental health.