By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
June 17, 2020
This year, chats with my patients have taken a darker turn.
Many of them are glued to their TVs and newsfeeds watching the latest developments – coronavirus, violent protests, brush fires, tragic deaths, political upheaval, data breaches, mass shootings…
It’s a long list.
And it’s easy to find yourself riveted by personal stories, commentary, and live footage. News coverage rolls 24/7 creating a feeling of fear, pessimism and depression.
Why even bother leaving the house?
Back when I was a young adult, I got my updates from the evening news or newspaper. It didn’t take much time to get factual, unbiased information from these sources. It felt good to know what was going on in the world.
But these days? Whew! Over the last few decades, news has become heavily weighted with negative sensationalism. News rag type headlines increase ratings to create profit centers.
Can you imagine old timers like Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntly or David Brinkley getting you riled up with rhetoric rather than just reporting the news?
And when you’re bombarded with non-stop emotionally negative news, it’s hard not to get drawn in. It’s hard not to start “catastrophizing” your own life.
And the more you follow these stories, the more likely they are to have a very real psychological effect on your life. It’s downright toxic!
The Physical Effects of “Bad News”
Stress levels rise. Anxiety and depression start setting in. Your body starts aching for no apparent reason.
You see, all of that stress, worry and negativity sets off a chain reaction that places your body in an inflammatory state.
It triggers a cortisol response, just like any other stressful or panicky situation. Cortisol is one of the hormones your body produces when you’re threatened. And it works great in a fight or flight scenario.
But when you feel stressed out for days on end – week after week – your body keeps producing more and more cortisol. Over time, the cells in your body become resistant to it.
And this is where the real problems occur.
Eventually your body stops responding to cortisol. That’s when inflammation is given free reign to run amok throughout your body.
As you well know, chronic inflammation has an extreme impact on your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and other health issues associated with aging.
My point? When you stay glued to all of those devastating news feeds that appear on your phone and social media, you could literally be making yourself sick!
Here’s What I’ve Been Telling my Patients
Consider your body. If you spend all day eating French fries and drinking sodas, your body is going to have a very bad reaction. It needs a balance of healthful nutrients from a variety of food groups.
Your mind is the same. Hours on end spent reading about stories of trauma and tragedy or watching devastating videos harms your body. You’re cutting your brain off from the mental activities, thought processes, creative projects and positive feelings it needs to thrive.
So, take action before all that negativity takes complete control and starts affecting your health.
Limit your news consumption. If you’re a news junkie, you may feel anxious to be out of the loop. But you’ll be much better off for it.
I recommend watching different news channels on occasion. You’ll get a better balance than if you rely on the same newsfeeds every day and listen to only one point of view.
If you can’t resist peeking at your phone, set limits. Maybe 15-minutes to a half hour in the morning and after dinner. (And don’t start clicking every link you see, or you’ll get trapped into the news cycle again before you know it!)
Give news an uplifting balance. Instead of always clicking on the latest disaster, select some “feel-good” stories. There’s always something interesting about a stranger paying for someone else’s groceries or a person who walks miles of beaches cleaning up trash. You know what I’m talking about. It will make you feel good.
Stretch your mind now that you’ve got extra time. When you limit the amount of time you spend viewing the news, you’ll find you have a lot of extra time on your hands. You’ll also spend a lot less time worrying about things that are out of your control.
Put that time to good use. Read a book. Chat with friends and discuss anything BUT the news. Take a soothing nature walk. Sign up for yoga. These are all mind-expanding activities that give your mind a rest and help relieve stress. Maybe turn off the news and turn on the music.
If you feel you need a little extra help lowering your anxiety levels, mindful breathing is the quickest short term answer.
Combine it with certain adaptogens like rhodiola and ashwagandha. This will help you protect yourself from the long term effects of runaway stress.
Just 185 mg of rhodiola daily decreases stress cortisol levels, increases mental performance and helps improve concentration. Ashwagandha is even more powerful. It can cut anxiety by more than half, slash stress levels as much as 44% and reduce cortisol levels by almost a third.
This is a potent combination when it comes to gaining control of your stress and anxiety levels. And when you combine them with curcumin, like that found in Curcumin Total Vitality, it can help switch off long term inflammatory responses associated with chronic stress.
Szabo A, et al. Negative psychological effects of watching the news in the television: relaxation or another intervention may be needed to buffer them! Int J Behav Med. 2007;14(2):57-62.
Balzarotti S, et al. News Reports of Catastrophes and Viewers’ Fear: Threat Appraisal of Positively Versus Negatively Framed Events. Media Psychology. 2014. 17:4, 357-377.
Marin MF, et al. There is no news like bad news: women are more remembering and stress reactive after reading real negative news than men. PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47189.
Olsson EM, et al. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta Med. 2009 Feb;75(2):105-12.
Pratte MA, et al. An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Dec;20(12):901-8.