I like to think that I’m an informed person, but lately watching the news has been stressing my whole family out. We’re not alone in it either. According to a study by the American Psychological Association released in 2017, two-thirds of our fellow countrymen are stressed over the future of our nation. Politics, by and large, are fueling this rise of anxiety; and a rapid fire news cycle of 30 second sound bites is the main method of distribution. In the wake of the 2016 Presidential election Dr. Steven Stosny, a therapist spoke out about the trends he was seeing in his patients, and coined the term “headline stress disorder.”
For as long as I remember, I have had the same habits of daily news consumption. The very habits that my mother had, and her mother had. Each morning with my coffee I turn on my trusted morning news show, and at 5:30 each night I’m watching the evening news. Since the early days of the Internet, I’ve added online sources here and there throughout the day. When smart phones came out it gave me another opportunity to be spoon-feed the latest happening on the world stage. I include news that comes from international sources and not only the USA. I believe in the old school rules of journalism, I want facts, not dramatics. The problem with this is that, over the past several years. the facts have become pretty damn dramatic.
A Delicate Balancing Act
It’s important to me to know what’s going on in the world, and to make informed decisions. It’s also important to keep my sanity. Watching the constant stream of bad news coming out this week has had a serious affect on my mental health. I’ve found it difficult to focus on much of anything. I’m lost and confused about what is happening in my country. I feel helpless and hopeless as far as the outlook for my country’s future. Headline Stress Disorder is a real thing, and I’m feeling it right now.
The human autonomic nervous system reacts to negative stress by increasing the production of certain hormones which wear out the body’s reserves. Constant exposure to negative news triggers hormonal imbalances that are especially bad for people who already deal with chronic illness, and can set off a flare. This means that for people with fibromyalgia, mental anguish can turn to searing pain, weakness, and physical fatigue. Further, our immune systems can get weaker, leaving the stressed out and weak more prone to a myriad of infections.
How do we combat Headline Stress Disorder?
First, it’s important to be aware of how the news can change your mood. If you notice you are having news-induced surge of depression and dread, or if your news consumption has been leaving you in tears, feeling bouts of rage, or making you want to drink, it is definitely time to make some changes. Here are a few ideas about how to adjust your news consumption during trying times:
1. Take a breather and pare back your news habit.
Try limiting your consumption to once a day and for no more than 30 – 60 minutes. Consistency is the key in creating new habits. Pick one news source that you trust, and gather information at a specific time each day. You’ll still be in the loop, but not be hyper-focused on what is happening.
2. Silence the noise.
If your friends on social media keep posting about things that are stressing you out, think about putting them on a 30 day break. After you’ve muted the stressors, subscribe to a some accounts dedicated to things that make you happy. For me, it’s puppies and the sea.
3. Self-care is important.
Be sure to take part in mood-lifting activities like listening to music, watching a comedy, or starting a creative project. Get out of your house and away from your electronic news streams by going for a nature walk, or meet a friend for lunch.
4. Talk to someone about how you are feeling.
No, I’m not saying you should get into political debate about what is stressing you out. I’m saying you should share how you struggle with a trusted friend or medical professional to help put things in perspective. News that causes anxiety isn’t always something that directly effects us. Even so, human brains like to hyper-focus on perceived danger.
5. No news before bed.
Sleep is an important tool in resetting out stressed minds and preparing them for the next day. Give yourself a break and keep the evening hours full of things that you find relaxing. This will help you cut down on the anxiety dreams and let you start the next day on a better footing.
6. Start you day with something wonderful.
I know that it’s not always practical to completely cut off from the problem stories. But I also know that making the effort to make sure you get the “feel good” pieces is worthwhile. Fluff stories are not a waste of time. They provide hope and faith in an otherwise bleak news cycle. After you have heard the basics of what’s going on check in on the pop news, arts, movies, and sports.
Have you, or has someone you love, been feeling the stress of the recent news cycles like I have? If so I encourage you to share these tips for surviving headline stress disorder with anyone who needs them, tweet it out or pin it for later. Take a step back and regain some stability. Refocus on the relevant, love your people, care for yourself; the news cycle will still be spinning when you are ready to dive in once again.
This post is part of the Fibro Friday Link-up for 6/29/18
And part of The Sway’s Saturday Sharefest for 6/29/18