I was going to write a different post today but recent conversations with friends and clients motivated me to write something about despair.
It seems like the news these days is very stressful. I agree that it is, but I also want to point out that the goal of the news industry is to make it seem that way. Look at the Yahoo homepage any day or time and all you will see is scary headlines about the state of things.
Two important things to keep in mind:
1. The news industry is NOT about reporting the news. It is a for-profit industry that makes money by getting you to visit advertisers. Websites like Yahoo have one goal: keep you on their page so that they can expose you to more ads. How do they keep you on their page? It’s simple, really. They try to scare you because they know if they do, you’ll keep reading to find some glimmer of hope that things aren’t going to hell. They are relying on human nature to keep you engaged.
Sometime when you’re feeling calm, take a look at one of the “news” sites and see how much actual data is reported. In my experience it’s not much.
(BTW: if you use Yahoo email, you can skip the home page and just go to the login page. I have this bookmarked so that I don’t have to see their alarmist headlines. Link here: Yahoo Mail)
2. Don’t despair! Reading the news can feel like you’re helpless and powerless. Please know that you’re not. Despair is about your thinking; it’s about an abstract future that you’re imagining. The best thing you can do is to keep moving and to find ways to stay in the present. Get exercise. Engage with other people and have conversations (In person!). The Flight-Fight-Freeze part of your brain (the “old brain”) may want you to react by huddling in a corner, but that’s not going to help you because there is no “real” threat – it may feel real but you are not at risk for imminent injury or death. What you’re fearing is in your head. Now I’m not saying that there aren’t some confounding and concerning things going on; I’m saying that despairing and freezing in place isn’t going to help. What’s going to help is you using your cortex (the “new brain”) and engaging in the world. Get some exercise, take some slow deep breaths, read a book, watch a movie, do yoga, meditate. In other words, do something to get out of the FFF part of your brain so that you can use your cortex and respond rather than react.
(I’d also recommend that you stop reading news. Find sources that report real data, not hyped-up sites that are spreading fear. Most mainstream “news” sites these days are not reporting data. It may take some looking to find sites that are not trying to sell advertising, but they’re there.)