De-stressing from the media and the world around us
Despite the sunny summer weather, a lot of people have been showing signs of depression lately. People have been anxious, edgy, sad and fearful. They are losing sleep, have appetite changes and are worrying about the future. For many, it is because they are following the news too closely. There has been plenty of alarming news lately: shootings of black men by police; shootings of police; the polarizing speeches of the presidential election season; terrorist attacks in France and Germany; the coup attempt in Turkey; stabbings in Japan. The bad news is overwhelming. You feel helpless, wondering, “What is happening with the world?”
There is such a thing as too much news. There was a time when news was mostly print media, and mostly local. Nowadays we know almost instantly the worst things happening all around the world. All of the negative information rapidly piles up. Unfortunately, our brains tend to focus on the scary and dangerous, which sticks in our mind and wipes out the pleasantness we may have just read.
In this day and age many people get their news from electronic devices: televisions, phones, computers, etc. All of these devices can be overstimulating to the nervous system, cause eye strain and muscle fatigue. They make it hard to fall asleep as well. So in addition to the news causing us to feel bad emotionally, the way we get it can also make our bodies feel bad. The good news is that there are many things we can do to feel better. First, unplug. Walk away from your device. Try to take a break every half hour or so when working on the computer. Get up, stretch and let your eyes relax. Don’t use the electronic devices just before going to bed. In fact, put them away an hour before bedtime so that you can unwind and fall asleep.
Exercise and sunshine have been proven to be as effective as medication for mild to moderate depression. Go for a brisk walk or a bike ride, which not only distract you from current events, but also are uplifting to your mood and health. Spending time with friends and family has also been proven to help with depression. Again, it is distracting, but for most persons socializing naturally lifts mood as well.
Finally, if you just can’t pull yourself away from the media, focus on subject matter that tends to be more positive. For example, science and health reporting tend to focus more on new and promising discoveries. Also, try to remember, bad news sells. For every tragic death that you read about, millions of people finished their day happy and healthy, and so can you.
Dr. Carmen McIntyre is the chief medical officer at Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. If you have a question for Dr. McIntyre, please submit it to AskTheDr@dwmha.com.