Extra! Extra! Read All About It! The News May Be Making You Sick.
Your alarm goes off, it is still dark outside. The day is new, and the entire world is getting off to a fresh start. As you wipe the sleep out of your eyes and stretch, what is the first thing you do? For many of us our arm reaches out into the darkness for our old friend, our dear companion: our cell phone.
You press the home button, mindlessly type in your passcode and proceed to feed your brain its first sustenance of the day… the news. The screen comes alive and bright bursts of color spread across it giving your brain a rush of the “happy hormone” dopamine and for one glorious moment, you feel joy.
You are greeted by the carefully crafted logo of your favorite news source… Yahoo, Huffington Post, CNN. Pick your poison. This rush quickly diminishes though, as you begin to take in the words in front of you. Suddenly you are crushed by a tidal wave of death, destruction, chaos, fear. Before you even get out of bed, feelings of helplessness, anxiety and dread flood your system. The stage has now been set for your day.
The news has long been criticized for its sensational and fatalistic coverage of world events. This is now coupled with the addictive nature of digital media, and it is a dangerous combination. A new term has even been coined for the preoccupation with checking the news multiple times a day, refreshing our screens over and over just looking for the next tragedy: "doomscrolling".
Whether it’s the phenomenon of soothing our own self-doubt or discontent by marveling in the far worse atrocities others are experiencing, or the primal inclination of our primitive brains to seek out danger and potential threats for survival, we can’t seem to get enough!
But where do we draw the line between being informed and being traumatized?
With unparalleled rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges in the face of recent times, has educating ourselves on current events turned into a sort of masochistic self-fulfilling addiction of its own?
So many of my sessions in recent months have begun with “Have you seen what’s going on now?!” These precious moments of self-care are used to recount the latest, most tragic headline du jour. Clients admit to checking the news six, seven, ten times per day. They report feeling hopeless, angry, scared, and numb every time they get off their phones. The extra time they spend doomscrolling and the energy that it drains is taking time away from their lives and families and robbing them of the joy and gratitude they are entitled to.
I agree, of course, that it is important to know what is going on in the world around you, but I urge you to ask yourself, at what cost?
Take note of how many times you check the news each day and how you feel afterward. Compare the benefit versus the price you pay for it. Take a real look at how this doomscrolling affects your already strained coping system just struggling to stay afloat during these trying times. And ask yourself what, if anything, you are gaining by checking and re-checking the news multiple times per day.
As with anything that offers some measure of pleasure but comes at a cost, I believe that moderation is key. Perhaps you can consciously limit yourself to checking the news once or twice a day, and especially not first thing in the morning or right before bedtime. Note if this makes a difference in your overall mood.
Some even suggest filtering out the blue light or changing to grayscale in your phone’s settings to make it less visually gratifying and therefore reinforcing. Consider balancing the mainstream news with “good news” websites like www.positive.news or www.goodnewsnetwork.org. You can also empower yourself and take action on the issues that bother you the most by signing petitions, donating or volunteering. This will help with feelings of helplessness.
As the brilliant philosopher Eckhart Tolle says in his perspective-shifting book The Power of Now, “Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally… All else is madness.”
For more information on how the news negatively impacts your mental health and what to do about it read here.
If you're struggling with stress or anxiety in general or specifically from the state of our world today, I can help! I invite you to call me at (954) 391-5305 for a complimentary consultation to discuss how I could help.