I Got News for You

A Simple Strategy for Reducing Anxiety & Panic

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” It means that your body responds to what you put in your mouth. Everyone knows this is true.

It’s also true that you are what you see and hear. In other words, just as your body responds to what you eat, your mind responds to what it ingests.

In the last 50 years, the incidence of violent crime and sexual licentiousness in society has risen dramatically. Do you know why? There are multiple factors, of course, but one of them is that TV shows, music lyrics, Hollywood movies, video games, and online content have become increasingly violent and sexualized.

It’s simple; the more we see it (and hear it), the more we do it.

Did you know that the number of times that anxiety or panic disorder is diagnosed has risen dramatically since 1980?

Once again, there are many contributing factors. But do you know what happened in 1980?

That’s when CNN started and the 24/7 news cycle was born.

I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember, but it used to be that people got their news in 30 minutes in the evening. And half of that were commercials, sports, and the weather.

How scary could the world be in 15 minutes?

Today is very different.

We’re constantly bombarded with news about terrorist plots, serial killers on the loose, earthquakes killing thousands, hurricanes leveling towns, airplanes crashing or disappearing, Ebola spreading, people stealing millions, politicians lying, celebrities getting dumped by their boyfriend, and the list goes on and on.

Ingest that news all day and who wouldn’t feel anxious?

And here’s an interesting point…

Do we hear an equal number of stories about random acts of kindness, life saving heroes, charitable contributions, community clean-up efforts, organ donors, and 50th anniversaries?

Unfortunately not. Those stories don’t sell, so most of them go unreported.

The result is a news media heavily biased toward death, tragedy, pain, suffering, murder, loss, and sorrow. With the media as your source, it’s easy to think that the world is a scary place and that you should worry.

But it’s not like that. The chances of you being a victim are slim to none. And they’re certainly no higher than you being the recipient of grace, good fortune, or kindness. However, judging from the news, you might think that everyone’s life is tragic.

If you’re like most people I work with, some part of your anxiety is self induced. You’re provoking it by consuming junk media. Stop!

Or at least tone it way down.

You don’t have to read every headline. The vast majority of news stories are irrelevant to us. We don’t need to know about them. As Stephen Covey explained, they might be within our sphere of interest or concern, but they’re not within our sphere of influence. In other words, practically speaking, there’s nothing for us to do, and therefore it’s nothing we need to know.

I want to temper my point by acknowledging the importance of being an informed citizen. I’m not suggesting that you completely unplug or bury your head in the sand. But I am trying to sensitize you to the impact that media consumption has on your anxiety. And I am recommending that you exercise good judgment in what media you consume and how much.

In addition to toning down your consumption of negative media, ratchet up your exposure to positive media.

Example: Check out these front page headlines from today…

“Police in Buffalo Create Special Unit to Serve City’s Homeless”

“Children’s Exposure to Secondhand Smoke in England Has Dropped by 80%”

“10-Year-old Cancer Survivor Pays Forward Her Birthday Gifts to Kids Still in Hospital”

“Gambler-Turned-Tree-Hugger Spends Fortune To Restore Florida Forests”

“Cajun Food Truck Happily Dishes Up Plates to Anyone in Need”

“Man Uses Lottery Winnings to Buy Billboards to Help Save Women’s Lives”

“Volvo Pledges Lifetime of Cars to U.S. Doctor Serving Orphans”

“School Superintendent Gives Up $800,000 in Pay”

All those stories…one day…one page. My anxiety level declined just reading the headlines. Imagine if I read the stories too!

Where did I find these stories?

GoodNewsNetwork.org

It’s just an example of how easy it is in our information age to access positive media. There are all sorts of inspiring and positive movies, music, news, and books. But they’re not mainstream. So it requires initiative, which is an important quality necessary to overcome anxiety.

Fortunately, how to cultivate initiative and envelop yourself in positive energy is covered extensively in Dr. Dan’s Anxiety Plan. Check it out.

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Greensboro, NC

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