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Welcome to Wise Bread’s Best Money Tips Roundup! Today we found articles on easy ways to make money from social media, tips to make technology last beyond the warranty, and how to make the most of a health savings account.
Surely for some people, opening a newspaper, turning on the radio, or scrolling through social media first thing in the morning is a relaxing part of their routine. But if these activities have you bracing for blood pressure-spiking headlines, you’re not alone: According to a survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health [PDF], 40 percent of respondents who reported feeling stressed in the past month cited consuming news as a contributing factor. Forty-four percent identified “hearing about what the government or politicians are doing” as another cause—and this survey was taken back in 2014.
And it seems stress levels have only risen since then. Leading up to the election last November, the American Psychological Association found that more than half of U.S. adults were experiencing some degree of election-related anxiety, regardless of their party affiliation. Since Election Day, outlets have reported cases of post-election stress disorder plaguing Americans struggling to tear themselves away from the news (again, regardless of their politics). News is breaking so quickly and so often it can feel impossible to keep up.
According to University of Texas at San Antonio psychology professor Mary McNaughton-Cassill, this is a modern phenomenon. She’s spent a great deal of her career researching the connection between stress and news media and she’s seen how it’s evolved over the past couple decades. “The news is very different [than it used to be]. If you go back far enough, it was all written, and it was so slow that battles would be fought after the war ended,” she tells mental_floss. “But now, with 24-hour news and social media, we’ve gone the other way. Instead of not enough information, it’s too much.”
Stress caused by the media is a legitimate concern, but unplugging yourself for good isn’t the only way to treat it. Here are some tips for staying informed and engaged without sacrificing your peace of mind.
1. BE MINDFUL OF YOUR PATTERNS.
If you suspect that constant reports of terrorism, climate change, and ugly political feuds are taking their toll on your life, there are a few signs to look out for. “Sometimes people feel exceptionally tired; sometimes people feel numb; people might notice that they’re more cynical than they’ve been,” Laura van Dernoot Lipsky the author of Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others and the founder of The Trauma Stewardship Institute, tells mental_floss.
Instead of allowing the compassion or rage you feel upon seeing a headline to melt into fatigue, McNaughton-Cassill recommends asking yourself why you’re addicted to your Twitter or Facebook feed in the first place. “What are you doing? Are you looking at the news frequently because you’re anxious and you want confirmation that it’s OK? Are you doing it just because you’re bored and don’t want to sit at your desk?” As is the case with other types of addiction, identifying the driving force behind your unhealthy media habits is the first step towards breaking them.
If what you’re feeling is more severe, you may need to do more than reevaluate your media habits. According to McNaughton-Cassill, reading or watching the news doesn’t cause clinical anxiety or depression on its own, but it can exacerbate the symptoms. In such cases, you should seek out the help of a mental health professional.
Although social media has made it easy to share your feelings with the press of a button, the market for old-fashioned analog greeting cards is still chugging along. The industry rakes in an estimated $5 billion annually, led by card giants Hallmark and American Greetings and bolstered by hundreds of smaller start-ups.
At big and small firms alike, card designers are tasked with spending their days finding fresh ways to communicate love, sympathy, or holiday cheer. We spoke to a few of them to find out what it takes to stand out on the retail card racks.
1. THEIR CARDS ARE SURPRISINGLY PERSONAL.
In the card business, writers are constantly angling to capture a “universal specific,” or a common theme that sounds personal despite having appeal across the board. Matt Gowen, a staff writer at Hallmark, says that one of the best ways to arrive at that sincerity is to imagine you’re writing a card for one specific person in your life. “Starting with a real person and a real relationship gives you lots of little details to use,” he says. “Writing an anniversary card, I can think about my own wife.” A colleague of Gowen’s writes her Mother’s Day cards with her own mother in mind. “Her mom just loses it. It’s a lot of fun.”
2. THERE ARE RULES FOR THE TOP THIRD OF THE CARD.
Most card displays are front-facing, with only the upper third of the card exposed to shoppers. That means card designers need to try and capture your scanning eye with something that makes at least a little bit of sense even when it’s cut off from the rest of the pack. “You need to create a symbol, image, or word that immediately makes a person want to pick up the card from about a three to six-foot distance, [which is] often how far someone is when they scan cards,” says Kate Harper, a freelance card designer. “For example, if it is a love card, adding a heart to the top third is helpful. It immediately communicates to the person passing by what the topic of the card is.”
3. THE REJECTION RATE IS HIGH.
Writers and designers at Hallmark are typically brought on group projects that are sorted according to holidays or themes, with a mandate to create anywhere from 100 to 150 cards for the occasion. Because standards are high, the vast majority of their ideas won’t make it into your hands. “If you write humor, which I do, a 10 percent acceptance rate is considered high,” Gowen says. “Most ideas end up in the trash. You learn to develop a thick skin.”
4. THEY DON’T LIKE TO USE HUMAN FACES.
Ever wonder why cards feature an abundance of adorable animals or decapitated bodies? It’s because photographed human faces may make cards less appealing. “When people buy cards for someone,…