opinion

COLUMN: Pull away from media occasionally to save your health



John Scalzi, a popular science fiction author, recently tweeted, “These aren’t the End Times, but it sure as hell feels like the End Times are getting in a few dress rehearsal right about now." And he has a point. 

In the last week alone, there have been two massive hurricanes, wildfires across the west and a devastating earthquake in Mexico

Recently, the news seems pretty bleak, and with the way it looks, it's important to remember the importance of self-care and disconnection. 

Exposure to negativity, whether it's personal or through media, can have an effect on a person’s mood according to Psychology Today. Constant exposure to negative news, as the 24-hour news cycle has been reduced to, just adds to the negativity that already impacts our lives.

One of the benefits and drawbacks of a 24-hour news cycle is that we are constantly able to connect with what is occurring in the world. After 9/11, the National Institutes of Health found that watching coverage of 9/11 on television was correlated with triggered PTSD

And the 9/11attacks aren't the only events that are making this worse. In 2013, the Guardian reported on how constantly absorbing the news can be horrible for one’s mental and physical health. Stressful stories cause the release the stress hormone cortisol. And if we’re constantly consuming negative news, our bodies are living in a constant state of stress. The effect of this can lead to fatigue, digestion problems and desensitization

Desensitization is becoming more and more of a problem. Often, the news is so negative that it makes me think, "Why should I bother when it’s obvious that nothing I do will make a difference?"

The learned helplessness that we feel while watching the news just makes us more apathetic. 

Ironically, one of the largest perpetrators of negative news, CNN, reported about the effect of negative news.  

They reported that observers can experience “vicarious trauma” from watching too much news. Dr. Pam Ramsden, a professor of psychology from the University of Bradford, states that watching too much news can lead to binge watching traumatic videos, isolation and future anxiety disorders

How do we treat this disease of negativity? We disconnect. 

A counselor at the Anxiety and Stress Management Institute, Ali Dixon, found that pulling away from media coverage can provide the best respite from media-induced anxiety.

We want to be informed people. We want to know what’s going on in the world. However, the more we pay attention to the news, the more helpless and useless we seem to feel. 

And maybe it is not the end times, but the news media is surely treating it like it is. And we have a responsibility to ourselves to pull away when it gets to be too much. 

npatwari@indiana.edu

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