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Stress, Anxiety, and the Endless Stream of Bad News

You get home and turn on the news. Next thing you know, you are seeing another story about gun violence, another act of terrorism, another political scandal; an epidemic in a foreign country.  

You’ve made a habit of watching the news each night, however – each time you do – you grow to fear the world just a little bit more.  It’s a scary place, you think. A world governed by violence and tragedy. You grow anxious – to the point where you are practically sick to your stomach. 

Of course, viewing the world through this lens doesn’t accurately represent all of humanity. But the endless stream of bad news and the social media at our fingertips makes us think otherwise. 

So how can we avoid these negative thoughts? How can we stop dwelling on the bad news and start focusing on the good? 

1. Try not to overthink. 

Overthinking often only leads to more stress and anxiety.  When you come face-to-face with bad news, make sure to ask yourself (but only once), “How can I personally help to solve this problem?” Once you’ve asked this question, try to come up with a reasonable plan for contributing to the solution.  If you are unable to think of anything logical or realistic, move on.  

Don’t let your mind dwell on questions like: “What can I do to fix this?” or “Why am I not helping”.  Letting these sorts of thoughts flood your mind will only result in more stress and anxiety. Pause. Take a deep breath. Take some time to meditate and think about other things. Wait long enough, and these questions will lose their power over you.

2. Limit your exposure to TV and Internet.

Technology is great, but it can also work to fuel our stress and anxiety.  Being inundated with a constant flow of stories and articles through social media platforms and broadcasting systems can make avoiding bad news a difficult feat.  

While it’s tempting to spend your day scrolling through Facebook or watching the news, the longer you spend reading/watching a story, the more invested you become.  Once you become invested, it’s a slippery slope. One that is difficult to climb away from. The story takes hold of us. We start asking questions. We start dwelling on the bad and forget about all the good around us.  Overall, the key to avoiding this is simply having self-control and being able to healthily distance ourselves from the media.    

3. Ease up on the caffeine.

Only allow yourself to drink a reasonable amount of tea or coffee in the morning.  You know your body best, however, consuming too much caffeine can only exacerbate the effects of stress and anxiety. 

4. Get a good night’s sleep.

If you are a die-hard caffeine connoisseur and depend on your daily cup of tea or coffee in the morning to keep you awake, then consider revising your sleep schedule so that you can optimize your awake time.  Getting a good night’s sleep can work wonders when it comes to counteracting stress and anxiety. Try it sometime. You will not regret it. 

5. Accept the uncertainty. 

Arguably the most important (yet most difficult) step in this list is being able to come to terms with the fact that there is no such thing as absolute safety.  Understanding that some things are simply out of our control can help to mitigate your day-to-day stress and anxiety. In fact, positioning yourself with the belief that there is such a thing as guaranteed security can actually amplify your worries.  Conditioning yourself to believe that, “If I do this, then I’ll be safe from harm,” can work as a positive reward system for anxious thoughts. When we consciously avoid something due to the possible repercussions, we feel relieved for a short while, as if we’ve dodged some terrible hap.  This only reinforces stress and anxiety as we crave that feeling of relief. Of course, we shouldn’t withdraw all our precautions, but when we are feeling overwhelmed by current events, it’s important to remind yourself that some things aren’t ours to control.