Four ways to handle news-induced anxiety
I remember once being introduced to two sisters. Their mother said, “this is the smart one and this is the pretty one.” Both girls were in their early 20’s. These girls had to live up to the images they had been assigned.
I have been struggling to write this blog for the past couple of weeks. I believe I have to live up to my Image as the positive one, the one who seems to “have it all together.” My persona is encouraging, sharing inspiring stories and encouragement on the Hey, Boomer show, but lately I have found myself feeling more anxious.
I have been concerned about the rising prices of everything, especially being on a fixed income; the angry and non-factual rhetoric that is such a virulent part of this election season; the threat to women’s rights and LGBTQ rights and the rise of antisemitism; the lies about the result of the 2020 election.
There is recent news about the new variants or mutations of the Corona virus and how it seems to be finding ways to avoid our immune systems and does not respond to the monoclonal antibody treatment that is currently used to fight the virus.
Or we could talk about climate change, sexual abuse, hunger, banning books in schools and libraries, the unprovoked war in Ukraine and the threat of tactical nuclear warfare? It is no wonder that worry and fear seems to interrupt us at almost every turn.
Before you run for your Xanax or a tall glass of wine, let’s refocus on what we can do to restore or maintain a sense of well-being. This is what I do when I find myself becoming overwhelmed by all the bad news.
- Take a deep breath. When we are stressed, we generally forget to breathe. Not literally, but we draw in short, shallow breaths which increase our sense of anxiety. Try to inhale deeply into your belly and exhale with an open mouth sigh. Three to four deep, cleansing breaths can begin to ease some of the tension you are experiencing. Notice if your shoulders are raised up near your ears. Relax your shoulders with each breath. Also notice if your jaw is clenched. Breathing out through your mouth will help you release the tightness in your jaw. Take a deep breath.
- Find what calms you. I find that if I turn on music it helps me relax. I can work with music on, but some people cannot. Taking a walk may be your way of releasing tension. Even short walks can be helpful. Play is another way to put worries or fears away. Play golf or pickleball. Play solitaire. Play time with young children is almost always a good break. Creativity can also be relaxing. I have rediscovered embroidery. Maybe for your it is painting or writing or cooking or gardening. Find what calms you.
- Do something that helps you feel more in control. When you look at all the issues today that are bombarding us with Warnings and Danger signs, which one or two really speak to you? Feeling a sense of empowerment, rather than a sense of uselessness is so important to our mental health. Right now, for me, it is voting that has become top of mind. I have been working with the League of Women Voters to register new voters and help voters who have moved to update their address before time ran out. I have been sending postcards to voters with lists and scripts provided by Activate America. And this morning I completed my training to be a poll worker. As Omkari Williams said on the Hey, Boomer show, “doing nothing will create regrets. If the outcome of your efforts is not what you hoped for, at least you will know that you did everything you could to get another outcome.” Small, incremental steps matter. Do something that helps you feel more in control.
- Put things in perspective. History goes in cycles. We have had very dark times in our history and then we have had very good times. We see this in our own lives as well. Things may be running along smoothly and then something happens. We lose a job, a relationship ends, we encounter a health challenge. Generally, we recover from these challenges and things return to equilibrium. Someone reminded me the other day that challenges are also opportunities. It is a matter of reframing how we look at them. What can we learn, how can we grow, what opportunities are presented to us by this “challenge?” Put things in perspective.
I am sure those girls are not always the smart one or the pretty one. I am not always the positive, encouraging, one who has it all together. We all experience a wide range of feelings. It is what we do with them that matters.
You are all amazing and you all have a lot to offer.