The News and Anxiety

image (2)We live in uncertain times, and that statement alone can send an anxious-sensitive personality type into a tailspin. But the truth is that we’ve always lived in uncertain times. Because death exists, our lives hang in the balance on this precious and precarious planet. The threats change faces – where once we feared our babies getting eaten by a wild hyena or dying of tuberculosis now we fear terrorist attacks and school bombings – but the threat is more or less the same as it’s always been. The bottom line is that there are no guarantees for our survival, an awareness that can send those who are attached to the guarantee of safety in the face of change into anxiety.

How we meet that anxiety determines whether we spiral into depression or ignite into action. If we hook into the fear stories, we quickly descend down the spiral slide that ends in flames. But if we can hold the fear without diminishing it, denying it, or placating it, then get off that train of thought and either downshift into the space of an open heart or upshift into action, we can hold our seat during change, whether personal or global.

There are many concrete actions we can take to help hold our seat when exposed to the external challenges inherent to our existence, and one of the most powerful is also the most simple: limiting our exposure to broadcast news. As loving parents to ourselves, we need to be very mindful and disciplined about how much and which types of news we watch. Just as we limit what we share with and show our children, so we must find the balance between staying informed and practicing self-care. What we watch metabolizes into psyche much the same way that what we eat metabolizes into our bodies. In other words, images can be nourishing or damaging, just the way food can be. When we binge watch on broadcast news, it often has a similar effect as binge-eating a box of donuts: You will feel sick from the overdose of  junk.

It’s essential to realize that mainstream news often presents a one-sided, skewed and sensationalized story. When you open a popular news channel, the headlines you see are fraught with fear and negativity. The news spreads negativity because it has conditioned us to expect negativity. And it breeds more than negativity; it breeds fear, hopelessness and anxiety. If you’re familiar with the role fear plays in your own mind (the powerful storylines we fall prey to when anxiety and intrusive thoughts take hold), you can understand how alluring and addictive fear can be. Like sugar, it’s difficult for the mind to control itself once exposed to negative news. We read an alarming or alluring headline and it’s nearly impossible not to click on the link.

But we could easily be conditioned to thrive on positive news. Can you imagine how differently you would feel if news channels splashed good news across their title pages? What stream of positive energy would surge through your system if you read things like:

Infant Mortality Rate Lowest in History!

150 Years Since Bubonic Plague Swept the Nation!

Lifespan Increased Dramatically in Last 100 Years!

If you were to click on that last headline you would read the following from the National Institute on Aging:

The dramatic increase in average life expectancy during the 20th century ranks as one of society’s greatest achievements. Although most babies born in 1900 did not live past age 50, life expectancy at birth now exceeds 83 years in Japan—the current leader—and is at least 81 years in several other countries.

Halleluja! The human race is doing pretty well. But our achievements in health, science, and psychology generally don’t make headline news. The positive, life-affirming stories exist, somewhere, but you have to really search for them. Why? Because apparently death and sex and violence sell. Or, said more accurately, we’ve been trained, like a flock of sheep, to gravitate toward negative and sensationalized news.

And what if, instead of reading salacious details about the latest celebrity divorce, we read heartening facts about long-term marriages, like:

Billy Crystal and his wife have been married for 46 years! They have two children and four grandchildren!

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have been married since 1988 and they’re still happily married!

The media preys on our need for certainty by dangling the vines of uncertainty into our vision constantly. They prey on our tendency toward fear, knowing that fear is addictive and fully aware of how difficult it is not to click and buy when fear is at the helm. While there are certainty very real threats that exist, there is also great hope, acts of kindness, and miracles that occur every single day, often in our midst. We just don’t readily hear about them.

When anxiety takes hold and traps you in its mental torture-chamber, the way out is to turn inward and take stock of the four realms of Self: What is needed physically? How is your emotional realm (when’s the last time you had a good, productive cry)? Are you filling your well by accessing your creative and spiritual channels? And, on the cognitive spoke of the wheel, what are you feeding your mind? What images and information are you ingesting  that could be negatively affecting and even causing your anxiety? It’s worth inquiring, and then taking the loving actions – both internally and in the world –  that result in lasting and sustainable change from the inside-out.

33 comments to The News and Anxiety

  • Kate

    Wow! Finally somebody’s said it!

    I remember a year before I got into a relationship I found out the news wasn’t my friend and that could I trust anything that I was told by the mainstream media. As a girl growing up always hoping there was some structure outside my unstable home where people were working for the good of others, when I realised this boy oh boy did I get set into one seriously dark bout of anxiety and depression. I think it actually made my world fall apart, – structure I’d always relied on to keep my anxious mind safe as a kid (always being informed thinking it was because it was the safest way to live life) to having that completely torn down just after I’d moved 180 miles away from my childhood town, I can safely say was monumental. The idea that the first thing people watch in the morning is based on fearful scaremongering saddens my heart deeply. I think the very most loving thing anyone with an anxious mind can do is not know. The funniest thing about that is when I talk to people they think I’m uneducated because “I don’t know what’s happening in the world”. I’m aware bad things happen everyday but if I base my already sponge mind in fear I garurentee my actions, thoughts or feelings will be caught up all day instead of love and if you ask me, I’d rather be deemed uneducated and have a more positive attitude in the morning to not add to an overly fearful world and to create more love and kindness then so be it.

    Recently also, I know Sheryl has spoke about this a lot but sometimes you’re just not at a place where you can resonate with the words, but yesterday after THE worst anxiety attack to leave my boyfriend, I was almost screaming at myself not to do it or believe whatever this voice was, the thought of leaving was making me so sick, I realised something… I don’t have to leave, my inner child is threatened at my new way of living, my home is stable now with my partner, my relationship is incredibly healthy and we our conscious in our words toward another. I’m not used to this, this isn’t what I call safe, growing up the only safety was in the turmoil, the constant threatening to leave by my mother after they got back together after a swept under the rug never spoke about divorce. I’m not in that environment, I’ve picked differently for myself, I realised the only thing truly wrong (as there are literally no red flags, he’s incredible) is my outdated beliefs and my anxiety is trying to keep me safe because I truly believe relationships like this don’t happen, whilst it’s not always easy it’s home to me, he is home, he is love, and I learnt from very early on if your happy it won’t last and the truth always hurts, so can I really blame the scared little girl in me trying to protect me? Absolutely not, I’ve never felt compassion for her like this before and it fils my heart.. how fantastic.

    Also last week, kindly I had a huge HIGHER SELF MOMENT (wooo we love these) higher self = loving self.. she came into my head from the right side of my brain and said “stay, you don’t have to leave, I promise if you stay, you won’t regret it” and the soothing words sank so far deep into my core an overwhelming sense of peace filled my body, of course my fear based self kicked up the very next moment but I won’t forget it. I never thought that fear and excitement have the same chemical reaction… they do and do you know what… now when I have a panic I know whilst she has her overwhelming fears which I am beginning to learn to tend to lovingly.. the adult me has excitement. What a thing to fight for.

    P.s guys: if you do have to stay in formed RT NEWS is so real, so unbiased, a more loving choice.

    I’ve read every single one of your blogs Sheryl and I have to say this is the realist, this needs an incredible amount of attention, Love is THE most powerful force in the universe and ironically cannot exist in fear, so it’s an easy way of keeping people in low vibrations and living life not how we are at our core… a bundle of love energy.

    • Beautifully expressed, Kate. Thank you! When you talk about having a “sponge mind”, this article comes to mind:

      http://conscious-transitions.com/absorbing-other-peoples-lives/

      When we fill up on the inside, we become more impervious to others’ stories. And yet, consuming negative and skewed news will land most people in an anxious cesspool.

    • Ashley

      Kate,

      Your words hit a soft spot inside of me. I too came to the realization that no matter how much my WS tries to tell me i have to leave, that i don’t love him or whatever, i don’t have to leave.

      I had a moment today, only lasted about a minute honestly, but in that minute I’m almost POSITIVE that my higher self was present. She said “these thoughts inside your head are not what you feel in your heart”

      Mind. Blown. I literally put my hand in my heart and cried. At the end of this brief moment I was crying and smiling and FEELING the pain and everything else. I love your post. Thought id share mine

  • Tea

    Wonderfully said as always, Sheryl! This is why I deactivated my Facebook account. Nonstop doom-and-gloom news stories, and I would always click on them and spend hours reading them, like an addict. After my binge news reading I noticed I never felt better, always much worse. In fact, I even noticed myself worrying about terrorist attacks happening in my world, something I had always rolled my eyes at others worrying about since the statistical probability is so low. Sheryl, I remembered something you had said in blog posts about how the news can give us anxiety, something I had not felt before since I don’t have cable, and I believe it inspired me to pull the plug on Facebook.

    It’s been two months now, and I feel like I live in a cleaner, simpler world. Not sure why the world clean comes to mind, but when I try to describe my mental state without new stories and the constant pull of Facebook, that is the word that appears.

    p.s. (How sweet about Billy Crystal and Tom Hanks!)

    • Good for you, Tea. Yes, when we open our computers, we bring the entire world into our psyches and senses. Conversely, when we unplug or use discernment, we simplify and live life more aligned with natural time as opposed to technological time. Thus, describing this state as “cleaner and simpler” makes perfect sense to me. Thank you.

      • Ashley

        AHHHH “live life more aligned with natural time as opposed to technoligical time” IF I COULD JUST PRAISE YOU FOR A MOMENT.

        I have Always seen on media and been told I’m “too young to settle” with my now boyfriend because I am young, but besides that, this statement just slapped all of those other culture enthused statements right in the face.

        I have been so worried that I’m not doing the right thing because “Im too young” and all but time is something we as humans made up. Time doesn’t even exist. If we didn’t put a number of how old we are to ourselves, none of this would even matter! God I love this

  • Maria Tranquilli

    Hi Sheryl,

    Could you speak to how to take action, and transforming emotions into conscious positive action?
    I ask, bc I’m reading lots of FB posts from friends and family expressively stating to harness the anger they feel to take action. I’ve verbalized to them that this is a slippery slope,bc so few humans know how to constructively do this. My advice and redirection to them is to acknowledge the anger,to know that it is a secondary emotion to fear,and to consider that the truer wish they have is protection of self and others. I suggest that they use the wish to protect as the basis for action, rather than be fueled by anger.
    What do you think?

    • I think you’re right on target, but perhaps you’re also saying the same thing and it’s a question of semantics? However we take positive action is a positive thing. But yes, we must be careful that we don’t feed anger and blame with more anger and blame and instead find ways to meet the pain of the world with our own open and vulnerable heart.

  • worrier96

    Oh yes to this post!!

    I stopped watching the news this year, mainly due to all the terrorist attacks happening in Europe. I live in England and I became absolutely terrified. I was scared to go out. I remember sitting in my favourite coffee shop but suddenly feeling unsafe, I became terrified that the coffee shop was going to become a target and that I was very unsafe. I ended up leaving and waiting outside my mums office for 3 hours….

    That’s just a small example of what the news does to my anxiety! I watched it last night for the first time in a while, and luckily (with the help of a certain wonderful person and her wonderful e-course) my LA is much more developed now and it didn’t send my into tailspin anxiety, but it is just so damn negative!! Honestly, I know there is a lot of terrible things happening in the world, but there wasn’t one piece of positive news.
    I do think that it maybe is less about the news and perhaps more about the world we are currently living in…it may sound morbid but this is why certain programmes such as the news can be really bad for HSPs!

    • I’m thrilled to hear that your loving inner parent is moving into the driver’s seat!

    • Ashley

      Hi! I see you comment and post a lot on here and i just wanted to see if you’d be willing to talk about your journey?

      • worrier96

        Hi Ashley!

        Of course, feel free to ask me anything!

        I’m not ‘out the other side’ yet, but I do understand my anxiety a whole lot more, rarely feel anxious anymore and am able to deal with the thoughts and feelings in much more loving ways 🙂

        What would you like to know? 🙂

  • Tom

    Fantastic post Sheryl, I’ve never been a big fan of watching the news or reading the newspaper and people always seem shocked when I mention that, I get questions like ‘well don’t you want to know what’s going on in the world?’ It’s not that I like to turn a blind eye to what’s going on I just know I don’t need to watch the news everyday to find out. It is a shame that they don’t always balance it out with all the great things that are happening in the world but it’s not too bad cause I know I can play my own part in showing people not everything is bad about the world.

    Thanks for all your hard work. The amount of love, compassion and detail that goes into your posts never fails to amaze me!

    Tom.

  • Dear Sheryl,
    First of all, thank you so much for your help, your clear sight and your generosity.
    I am a French writer (fiction and works on education: thinking and storytelling). In fact, I am in a transition from teacher to writer to be more precise, and I have just published my first book.
    I would like to translate this post in order to publish it on my website, of course presented as a translation of a part of your work.
    What do you think of that? Would it possible?
    We crave here for this kind of viewpoints… And we French people are more or less as bad as our reputation when it comes to reading or speaking english. 🙂
    My website http://www.charlottemagri.com is a newborn one, and not yet launched, but it will be in a few days now.
    Warm thanks again,
    Charlotte

  • M

    Anxiety can be so confusing. I have noticed that if I see something upsetting in the media or watch a disturbing show (like The Walking Dead, for example) and it triggers anxiety it causes me to start feeling relationship anxiety, even though they are not even related. Why is this? It doesn’t make sense. Do you have any advice?

    • Ashley

      M,

      My boyfriend and i recently watched The Purge Anarchy (if intrusive thoughts bother you, don’t watch it) and there is a lot of…well violent murder in the movie. And it’s made to look psychotic. Anyways, after watching the movie I had violent images of stabbing my boyfriend pop up in my head and thoughts like “what if i hurt Eric?” And let me just say, i was a wreck.

      The Anxious mind will latch onto ANYTHING in order to get you to leave. With Relationship Anxiety and your ego or Wounded Self, the sky is the limit and there is no problem to big or to small that won’t be brought to light. Do you have the ecourse? If not, i totally reccomend it.

      I myself was and still am afraid I’ll find “my truth is to leave” or “I really don’t love him” but it’s not fast work and it provides you with SO many tools to help you out.

      I hope this helped a little. You aren’t alone!

  • Newly Married

    Since I was little my dad would like to hear the news and I always hated them because all they would say was all the bad things that were happening in the world and he would tell me that i needed to hear them to be on the loop and he would sometimes be kind of mad at me for not wanting to hear them, or at least thats how i felt.
    So when i left home I never heard the news again, I dont even know what happens until someone says it. but they always caused me so much anxiety and worry and a feeling of hopelessness in our world and in my future.
    Thank you Sheryl 🙂

  • Ashley

    Ah this relates.. I was on social media and read a story about a guy who broke up with his girlfriend whom he’d been with since 16 years old because he “didn’t realize what was out there”. Let me tell you, THIS spiked me. Well not really, because I’m in the whole “feeling empty” stage but it did bring back my “I’m too young and inexperienced thoughts”, but, the amazing thing is, since starting the Break Free Ecourse just three weeks ago, (which by the way, when can I get on the forum (: ) I am already so much more in control of what I let bother me, and how HARSHLY I let it bother me. My thoughts are still there and still bothering me, but I can get out of bed now. I can eat now. I know it sounds silly, but baby steps right? (: I totally agree with this as of now. TV and Social media in general is a breeding ground for the anxious mind.

  • Katelyn

    I’m very young but me and my boyfriend will be together for 2 years in a few weeks and let me tell you, it hasn’t been easy!!! Some days are hard and some days are super easy, but my thoughts never go away I just get better at not really ignoring them but not freaking out about them either. Now these past three days I have been spiking over them!! Yesterday we got into an argument over little things, LITTLE things!! And I said “I don’t know how to get my point across to you unless I break up with you and date somebody else, of course I didn’t mean it but I was aggervated and he said “do you want me or somebody else” and I said “You!” But of course my mind was saying “someone else” it’s hard when your head is saying something different right?? My thoughts get so bad where I believe I have to leave, it hurts. It’s like I don’t what I want or if I love him but I do but then I don’t. I’m more unsure than I am sure. It’s weird. Please someone comment back! 🙂 I love to hear your stories!

  • Katelyn

    When I would have thought about not loving him, I would say “well he’s the one I want for sure” and it would calm me down so much like so much it was crazy but then I’m not even sure of that anymore! I so wish I had enough money for the e-course!!

    • Ashley

      Hi Katelyn! I’m young too, possibly younger than you. Im 18, turning 19 in a few days, and my boyfriend is 23. We’ve been together nearly as long as you and your guy, 1 year and going on 7 months. This is a hard thing for me to come to terms with as I too struggle with the “Too young” and “not enough experience things” I’ve had a lot of support from people and I’d love to share some statements from some people with you!
      Cyndle (Cbear in the forum) was a MASSIVE help to me. She and I were messaging back and forth and she told me;
      “What you’re missing isnt that great. I’ve seen girls in college go out, get drunk, sleep with someone and wake up feeling like hell and regretting it the next day.” It’s not glamorous.
      Another girl I met through a facebook group I’m in told me “You might be youngm but if you’re with a loving partner, whom you can grow and learn about REAL love with, then why not?! There’s millions of exoeriences in this world, therefore we can’t experience them all. However, how cool is it to get to experience it with someone who loves you??” Thats a good one.

      The ecourse has been a HUGE help in calming the initial panic that I first had. I couldnt eat, sleep, or do anything besides think and cry. Since getting on the course three weeks ago, I’ve calmed down signifigantly. I’ve reached this new indifferent and not caring stage, which probably sucks more than the panic, but I’ve been told that the empttiness i’m feeling is a good sign (for when I decide to accept the emptiness rather than try and fill it with the “too young” or “i dont love him thoughts” and instead fill it with positive things, my love will come back so fingers crossed!)

      Just know, you are NOT alone. REMEMBER, Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. I try and hold onto the memory of me loving him before my Relationship Anxiety and realize that although it may feel like I dont love him now, I did at one time and love is all about the ebbs and flows. You arent going to love them all the time. You arent going to feel infauated all the time. You’re going to fantasize about different lives and different people and think about ALL of those things.

      I’m still trying to grasp it all. I hope this helps. If you have anymore questions just let me know, I’m new to this too and young, but no matter what age or when this hits you, it’s all the same

      • Katelyn

        Thank you!!! I am younger than you, I’m 15. I know I’m too young lol. But about the filling the negative thoughts with positive thing.. I do but it’s like the negative overcome the positive but my boyfriend is very understanding. I tell him that I’m not sure of anything and he understands!!

        • Ashley

          I don’t think you’re ever too young to come to this work. My mother was 14 when she marri3d my father and they’re still together. I get what you mean when you say the bad outweigh the good. It’s a matter of practice and repition. Sometimes you have to tell yourself the same thing 10000 times before it sticks. I’m still working on this too. Do not be discouraged by your age.

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, I have decided not to watch the news every night, it just escalates my anxiety.
    Today I was watching our Wedding photos, and made me go back to that special day. We looked happy, I looked happy from the outside but on the inside I was in such ovetwhelming fear and plus I had my periods. It triggered my anxiety and I was thinking, why wasnt i feeling relaxed… it was like i was ashamed of myself. I know I am suppose to welcome it but today I just prayed go away, please leave me alone. Life is hard as it is. I hate myself for feeling anxious Sheryl.

    • It sounds like there’s still work to do, Angela, in terms of learning how to respond to your thoughts and feelings with compassion. It doesn’t mean you have to like them, but if you wish them away they will come back doubly. Sending you love x

  • Angela

    I hear you, thank you so much for your loving support.XO
    Do you recommend going through all the courses from beginning to end?

    • I wouldn’t recommend going through all of the courses from beginning to end as that would likely be overwhelming, but I would suggest choosing one and taking it one day at a time.

  • Angela

    I feel so relaxed when i see your radiant, beautiful soul on the screen, I feel so comfortable and at home when you educate us on this fantastic thing called technology. If I lived in Colorado I would definitely see you at your clinic. Its not easy to find someone professionally you connect with. Especially in this culture where anxiet is not properly understood.Its scary to think that many people are not given the right tools about how the mind really works. I am very lucky im not one of those people. I cant change how im wired. Both my parents have anxiety there parents had severe anxiety. Its just part of life. It does take work and effort to change my thoughts its the only way to feel inner peace. Setbacks i have encountered but also remarkable days which had given me the confidence to stay strong and positive.

  • Stef

    Hi sheryl,

    I loved this blog and it definitely hit home to me!
    I avoid watching the news! I try hard to also avoid news on Facebook and other social medias. I sometimes seemed to get triggered most by news about ‘break up’ stories, people coming out as gay and things like that.
    I am with a women and have been for 4.5 years and I’ve had lots of thoughts about if I really love her, if I’m really straight, if I’m living authentically, if I’m anxious and depressed because I’m not loving the life I should be and am not aligned with myself.. and so on.
    I find if there is any news, blogs or articles on social medias surrounding any of these topics I get very anxious and like you mentioned almost attidcted to reading them.
    I always wonder if I’m reading them because I know they are my truth even if I don’t want it to be or if it’s just fear and what the fear is focusing on at the moment..

    I guess it’s something I have to work on still..
    xx