We live in an increasingly connected world. We have 24-hour news from multiple sources – country-specific (e.g. Australian Broadcasting Corporation or ABC in Australia), and international (e.g. CNN). We can obtain the latest news on any situation from multiple viewpoints at any time we wish.
Many people have been following the progress – rise and fall – of COVID-19 cases across the world since the beginning of 2020. Prior to this, we had multiple reports of terrorist attacks in various countries of the world. Recent news has also shown loss of life and multiple injuries through various activities. There is also regular news coverage of local events that cause concern, such as fighting, shootings, and other crime.
We all can get upset and disturbed by news reports, and it is reasonable to feel stress and anxiety when we hear of such events. One of the reasons that bad news affects us so much is because it is potentially threatening to us, and can make us feel that we are losing control in our lives. Stress, anxiety and concern are normal reactions to events which affect us.
How to take back control
One of the ways we can minimise the effect of such news is to take back control of how we react to the news, and take back control of our lives by making positive changes.
Here are some tips to help you decrease anxiety:-
- Change your perspective. John Tsilimparis, Director of the Anxiety and Panic Disorder Center of Los Angeles, suggests that people with elevated anxiety feel distressed when they are not in control. The solution to this is to concentrate on controlling what you can within your own life, and focus on what is happening to your loved ones and your life, rather than worrying about what may be happening elsewhere in the world which you cannot control.
- Focus on the things that you can control. Tsilimparis suggests gaining a wider perspective – like a movie director widening the camera lens to see more of the picture (rather than focusing on just your concern, also focus on positive events happening around you).
- Realise that life is not black and white. Your neighbourhood or country is not either totally safe or totally unsafe, and just because a crime has been reported on the media does not necessarily mean that your neighbourhood has become unsafe. Consider the likelihood of the event you fear actually occurring, and you may find that it is much lower than you first thought.
- Realise that bad news is popular in the media. The proportion of good news to bad news does not equal the proportion of good and bad in the world. In addition, news reports are often accompanied by images which show the events in great detail, which can cause further distress. Much more negative news is reported than good news, and there are many positive events which are not reported.
- Be aware of “fake news”. A report by the University of Canberra (1) found that Australian worry more than the global average about whether what they read is true or not. 62% of Australian news consumers say they are worried about what is real or fake on the internet, which is much higher than the global average (55%). 26% of Australians interviewed for the report said they have started to use more reliable sources of news, and 22% said they have stopped using unreliable sources.
- Limit exposure to news. 28% of Australians interviewed (1) said they are worn out by the volume of news. Most (88%) of those who are worn out by news, also avoid it. Listening or watching the same negative news repeatedly throughout the day may make you feel worse, so limit your exposure. This may involve turning off the automatic news alert on your mobile device, or only checking your device at specific times throughout the day. This could be during your coffee breaks, or at breakfast or lunch. Try to limit exposure to news directly before bedtime, as this can prey on your mind and keep you awake.
- Talk about your concerns. This can be to relatives, friends, work colleagues, or even strangers. This may allow you to get a different perspective on the issue, help normalize your feelings, and reassure you. It may even lead to positive action to help the issue (see next point below).
- Get involved in helping your local community. As an example, if you hear that there is a problem with kids drinking too much alcohol in your neighbourhood, you could get involved with a group (or start a group) to educate children about the dangers of alcohol.
- Express your emotions. Gail Saltz uses a metaphor for emotions of a beach ball that you are holding under water. Your arms will eventually become tired, and the moment that you tire and stop pressing down on the beach ball, it pops up. She states that emotions are like that – it takes a lot of energy to keep them hidden, and the moment that you stop suppressing them, they resurface. It is always better to address what you are thinking and feeling rather than suppress it.
- Consider if the reported event will have an effect on you. In today’s world we hear of many events which are distressing, but do not directly affect us, and which we may be unable to change. However, if you allow yourself to be overly concerned by these events, it can lead to ‘catastrophising’, which in turn leads to emotional upset due to the connection between emotions and thoughts. If you decide that you cannot influence an event, and it is not directly affecting you, then do not worry about it.
- Dispute your beliefs. Become aware of your thoughts, and examine them calmly. If you have an anxiety-producing thought, examine it as if ‘from the outside’ and say to yourself “Here I am – thinking anxious, emotional thoughts again. I am going to assess the situation in a calm manner”.
- Look after yourself. Watch your eating habits, and continue to take the time to prepare healthy food and eat regular meals. Take regular exercise, as exercise has been proven to have a positive effect on mood.
- Use meditation or mindfulness. If you find it difficult to sleep, you could use meditation, or mindfulness techniques. Try to go to sleep and wake up at approximately the same time each day, as this assists good sleep. It is important to take time to relax, as this will assist you in thinking and reasoning logically about what you may hear in the media.
- Seek professional help. If you find that despite following the above tips that you are still feeling anxious, you may wish to seek professional help. Professional hypnotherapists can help you work out how to overcome your anxiety by taking an objective and neutral viewpoint, and teach practical strategies that will assist you.
Without a doubt, reported events can absolutely cause anxiety. They take away a sense of control, but by shifting our perspective, we can gain control and decrease anxiety.
As a qualified hypnotherapist, I am trained to assist you with anxiety originating from any situation in your life in a confidential, supportive, non-judgmental way. If you want to know how hypnotherapy can help you deal more effectively with your anxiety feel free to give me a call on 0403 932311 or email email@example.com to arrange a no-obligation chat.
- Fisher, C., Park, S., Lee, J., Fuller, G., Sang, Y. (2019) Digital News Report: Australia 2019. Canberra: News and Media Research Centre. Retrieved on 6 June 2020.
- Peterson, T.J. (2016) What to Do When Current Events Cause Anxiety. HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 6 June 2020.
- Saltz, J. (2016) How to Manage Your Anxiety Over the Never-Ending Stream of Bad News. Health. Retrieved on 6 June 2020.
- Overcoming Anxiety in Today’s Tough, Tuned-in, Plugged-in World. Psych Central. Retrieved on 6 June 2020.