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News. Can it cause stress?

I have started to get letters from readers again that say the news is causing them stress. Just like 20 years ago some are feeling anxiety, fatigue and have loss of sleep. Most adults check the news every hour. Some constantly monitor their social media feeds which often exposes them to the latest news headlines, whether they like it or not. Unlike 20 years ago we have access to news 24 hours a day. We have thousands of ways to access news. The bit of advice I gave in that article was to cut off the TV and the radio. Now I want you to cut everything off.

It’s important to stay informed. News that affects your world can cause stress and anxiety. But too much news may not be good for your mental and even physical health. Research shows that negative TV news is a significant mood-changer, and the moods it tends to produce are sadness and anxiety. Studies have also shown that this change in mood made the viewer’s own personal worries worst, even when the worries are not directly relevant to the news stories being broadcasted.

Increased anxiety and stress are reasons to be wary of overdoing news. Mental health afflictions can also fuel physical ailments. The stress-related hormone, cortisol, have been linked to inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease and many other serious health concerns.

But why if the evidence suggests the news can stress people out, why do we keep going back for more? One simple reason, it’s entertaining. Our brain is wired to pay attention to information that scares or unsettles us. This concept is known as “negativity bias.”

This “negativity bias“ will make it hard for us to ignore the negative news and seek out the positive news. Our brain is predisposed to go negative, and the research on what we consume reflects it.

Most say that following the news to be an informed citizen, but a lot of what we get today is “gossip elevated to a sophisticated level.” If the news you consume is getting you worked up or worried then this is the exact the goal of much of today’s news coverage.

The effect news has on a person’s health varies from one person to another. News is not an infectious and contagious pathogen like the Ebola virus that impacts humans but it can still cause serious harm. If you find the news is affecting your relationship or well being, you have to make some changes to the ways you interact with your news.

Stress is the mental, emotional, and physiological response of the body to any situation that is new, threatening, frightening, or exciting. Stress can be both positive and negative. What makes stress positive or negative is how we react to the it. The way we react to stress has been defined as eustress or distress.

When we react to stress in a positive way it’s called eustress. In the case of eustress, health and performance continue to improve even as stress increases. When we react to stress negatively, we are in a distressed state. When a person experiences continued distress health and performance begin to deteriorate. It’s hard to think of any disease in which stress cannot play an aggravating role.

Stress signals

Stress is a part of everyday life. Some people can even thrive on stress. But, when stress reaches your mental, emotional or physiological limits it becomes distress. The way in which people perceive and cope with stress seems to be more important in the development of disease than the amount and type of stress itself.

If you suffer from headaches, fatigue, compulsive overeating, over critical behavior, teeth grinding, crying over nothing, thoughts of running away, edginess, indecisiveness, or feel ready to explode stress may be the cause.

Stress can increase the risk for coronary heart disease, hypertension, eating disorders, ulcers, diabetes, asthma, migraine headaches, sleep disorders, depression, chronic fatigue, and certain types of cancer. Stuttering or stammering, ringing, buzzing or “popping sounds, dry mouth, problems swallowing, excess belching, flatulence, increased smoking and increased alcohol or drug use can also be signs of stress. Stress accumulated from our daily life can also aggravate many illnesses.

Eating and stress

If you tend to over eat when you feel stressed, you could be causing a lot of problems both mentally and physically. Problems associated with this reaction to stress include gaining weight and being at risks for diseases associated with being overweight. Using food to deal with stress can also lead to eating disorders, such as bulimia and compulsive overeating.

Become more aware of the events and thoughts that prompt emotional eating. Keep a log to help you analyze what’s happening with your emotions. Be specific about what you write.

Seek alternatives. Instead of turning to food to cope with your feelings, work on dealing with them in other ways.

You should try to limit your food intake to:

2 to 3 serving of protein (fish, chicken, turkey, beef)

4 to 6 servings of grains (Whole grain bread, pasta, rice)

4 to 6 servings of vegetables

4 to 6 servings of fruit

Avoid junk foods!

What can you do?

Here are a few quick tips that will help you cope with stress immediately.

Stop your thoughts before they escalate into the worst possible scenarios.

Breathe deeply to release physical tension.

Smile, it’s hard to feel stressed when you smile.

Take a quick walk even if its 1 or 2 minutes.

Have a cup of warm herbal tea.

Appraise the situation or identify the problem.

View the stressor as a challenge.

Do what you can to deal with the problem or stressor.

They’re many ways of dealing with prolonged stress. If you’re “stressed out”, try these methods of coping with stress.

Use your mind to keep you calm when you feel stress building. You can do this by breathing deeply with your eyes closed then consciously tell yourself to relax. Once you calm down view the stressor as a situation, you can deal with

If you have a fitness question or concern, write Vince Faust at “Tips to be Fit,” PO Box 53443, Phila., Pa., 19105, or send an email to tipstobefit@gmail.com. Past articles can be found at www.phillytrib.com and search “Tips to be Fit.”

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