Hi. It’s Jenny at AnxietyBoss.com. Our question today is from Gerald in Pontiac, Illinois. The news channel gives me anxiety. Every time I watch, there is something wrong and it gives me anxiety. And at the same time, I cannot stop watching the news. What can I do about it?
Well, keep perspective. There is something at work here called the availability heuristic. It’s a psychological principal which states that we will tend to accept the information we are most frequently presented with as the norm or truth or even accurate. It’s actually a subtle form of brainwashing.
When you turn on the news, you see a report about someone who went into a school and shot 10 kids. It can be very traumatizing to watch. This is called vicarious traumatization. When we are exposed secondhand to something potentially traumatizing, saturation and bombardment with nothing but bad news can definitely contribute to anxiety, as well as anger and depression about the state of the world.
But remember that school where kids were killed was one solitary isolated event in the world. At most schools across the world, most kids went to school that day and nothing horrific happened. The news just rubs in our faces a horrific event at one school in one day.
Now in the US alone, there are currently as of 2010, 98,817 public schools according to Pearson Education. This does not include private schools, technical schools, community colleges, colleges, and universities. The US has 180 days in its school year. This means that one school shooting occurred on one day out of 180, out of 98,817 schools. Now that’s not to diminish in any way the heinous nature of such an act, but rather to keep perspective and realize that things are not completely out of control.
You may want to read Fear Less by Gavin de Becker. It’s an excellent book about how the media has a tendency to distort information to promote fear because fear sells.
One last thought. You control the TV, not the other way around. You don’t have to expose yourself to things that disturb you.