We have been living in uncertainty for more than a year. We do not know when we will see our family and friends again, when the economy will recover. What we are trying to do is to try to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. We watch the news to diffuse the uncertainty. However, this causes us to worry even more. This time we’re trying to dispel the anxiety the news evokes. Some use the method of the German writer Goethe, who collects newspapers and reads the news only one day a week, looking at the headlines every few days. Some people stop following the news. But is reading the news actually unnecessary or useless?
No, given the nature of the news that must be in the public interest. The main job of the media organs is to inform the public and to warn when necessary. It is this job description of the newspaper and journalist that largely explains the negativity of the news content. So if what we learn is for our benefit, why do we refuse to receive even information from a reliable publication?
Why does the news cause stress?
Short answer: We perceive current developments as threats. The place and time of the content of the news that creates the perception of threat. If the worrying development is the “here and now”, our nervous system sends the “you are not safe” signal to our brain. Our brain, receiving the signal, commands our body through the sympathetic nervous system: Protect yourself or stay away. If we cannot protect ourselves from danger and move away from it, the stress we are exposed to becomes constant. If we cannot reduce or control stress, we become depressed in the medium and long term.
For example, when the coronavirus emerged in China, it was a “deadly to those far away” danger. It was only after we entered the city we live in that we began to see him as a “personal threat”. It is out of the question for us to get away from it to reduce the stress it creates. But by protecting ourselves, we can keep this stress under control and reduce it to some extent.
How can we reduce and control the stress of current developments?
There are two conditions for controlling stress. The first is to acknowledge its existence and its causes. The second is to understand and recognize it correctly.
Why does not following current developments reduce stress?
Because denying a situation doesn’t change the fact that you actually know it’s true. In the background, the brain continues to command “fight or flight”.
What does it do for us to understand and define current developments correctly?
Understanding the situation perceived as a threat makes it inevitable to follow the developments related to it. Simply put, knowing how to wear a mask is not enough to protect yourself from the coronovirus. It is necessary to know which type of mask is effective (and which is not) against the virus and to use a mask accordingly. Following the developments in the relevant subject makes it easier for us to take the necessary measures to protect ourselves. In other words, we accept the existence of danger, but we learn how to live with it by constantly learning about it. The brain, which performs the “protect yourself” command in the background, sends the “You are safe” message via the parasympathetic nervous system. This means less stress.
Where and how to follow current developments?
It is natural for us to choose the negative information first. The job of our “programmed to survive” brain is to recognize and eliminate danger. However, it is not natural for us to be constantly exposed to negative information and our need is to control it. For this, the first thing we need to do is to follow a few reliable news sources. Reading, watching, listening to news at certain times of the day, for example, in the morning and evening. The second important step is not to see social media as a channel of information. Third, not to listen to conspiracy theories and rumors; not to exchange views with people who have no knowledge on the subject, even if they are our relatives.
How can we live the negative situation in the most positive way?
While following the news, thinking that the events that create stress will negatively affect your personal life, visualizing the results. The first step to take action is to accept that you cannot change the situation on your own. Next, find at least one positive side of the situation. Then, listing what you can do to feel good in the current circumstances. Finally, remembering that the situation will change over time and answering the following question: Where, in what situation, what will I be doing when life returns to normal?