Overloaded on bad news? You're not alone.
When we tune in to see what's going on all we see is suffering from natural disasters, shootings, terror attacks, reports about economic uncertainty and a divided political climate, plus celebrity deaths and just mean people being mean. We hear about a tragedy or disaster and we become glued to our TVs and news feeds, growing more and more anxious as rapid updates flow in.
While it is important to be informed, being a “news junkie” can be very damaging. It can cause insomnia, stomachaches and headaches due to anxiety. It can also lead to mindless eating, alcohol consumption and other coping behaviors that are unhealthy.
What’s worse, constant attention on negativity creates neuropathways in the brain that tell us we are unsafe activating a constant state of fight or flight. This fight or flight conditioning damages our cells and depletes our immune systems, allowing disease and chronic conditions to fester.
The opposite is taking a self-imposed weekly break from the news, TV and social media. Here is a list of some benefits of unplugging or “going off the grid” and what we can do to shift our mood from doom and pessimism to hope and optimism.
1) You reconnect with yourself. When you unplug from the outside, you plug into the inside of who you are. You’re able to think of the kind of world you want to live in and assess what you can do within your own life to live well. People make the mistake in feeling guilty, selfish or uncaring if they aren’t commiserating with others on some negative news event. What you are doing is self-preserving and protecting how you feel.
2) You’re attentive to those who matter most. When you watch the news, you get absorbed and tune out everyone around you. Your kids may try to get your attention or worse, may hear the news on in the background while they are around making them anxious and concerned for their safety.
3) You have time to take action! We have to remind ourselves watching the news helps no one. Some people find it helpful to volunteer in some way. Donating blood, collecting clothing or other supplies from neighbors and organizing a donation gets you away from the TV and into positive action.
4) You become mindful of your mood and make how you feel top priority. When you’re filling your mind with negativity, you attract more of it into your own life. This impacts your work, family, friends, even your pet! When you don’t feel happy and optimistic you can’t possibly be there for the people and things you care about. Substituting negative news for an audio book, a new course or workshop, even a more entertaining uplifting TV show will lift your spirits.
5) You’re less distracted and more focused. When you’re not preoccupied with the constant barrage of negative news, you’re able to be more present and focused. This impacts everything from driving your car to meetings at work. When you’re clearer, tasks are done right the first time with attention to detail.
6) You laugh more and worry less. Taking a break from the news frees you up from worry. You immediately open yourself to more fun topics of conversation and aren’t taking life so seriously anymore.
7) Your energy rises! When people are pessimistic their facial features and posture sags. Their eyes lose their sparkle. No one wants to be around sluggish energy zappers. When you consciously decide to take a break from the news, you aren’t starting your day with negativity but instead perhaps a nice morning walk or some other form of exercise.
Try a no-news is good news approach every weekend and pay attention to how you feel. Create your own good news!
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, is a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens. Website: comprehendthemind.com/
Dr. Hafeez masterfully applies her years of experience connecting psychological implications to address some of today’s common issues such as body image, social media addiction, relationships, workplace stress, parenting and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc.). In addition, Dr. Hafeez works with individuals who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, attention and memory problems, and abuse. Dr. Hafeez often shares her credible expertise to various news outlets in New York City and frequently appears on CNN and Dr. Oz.
Connect with her via twitter @comprehendMind or www.comprehendthemind.com.