Our country’s youngest citizens are indeed feeling stressed from all the bad and depressing news, that is poured out to them from the TV, newspapers, the internet, billboards, and social media. After all, grade-schoolers inherit all kinds of trouble adult baggage, from pharmaceutical drugs, social prejudices to bad eating habits. However, the very fact that kids too are upset by weighty issues does not bode well for the national psyche.
Today more than half of Americans agree that the news causes them some stress and many report feelings of anxiety, sleep loss or fatigue because of this, according to a 2017 survey that was illustrated by the American Psychological Association (APA). Therapists such as Elaine Ducharme, a psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn, report that between 85% and 90% of their patients discuss the stress of the news cycle during their counseling sessions. A small portion of businesses have banned cable news shows from televisions on their premises. Some of the Colleges are posting notices on their websites advising the students on how to wean themselves from the news coverage.
Vogue magazine very recently steered readers to Botox injections to help relieve some of the jaw clenching that accompanies “headline stress disorder.” The situation is on the right road to get even worse. Nearly 1 in 10 Americans report that they check the news every hour. And twenty percent say that they constantly monitor their social media feeds, which open the door to headlines whether they like it or not. All the constant pinging of our breaking-news alerts causes some anxiety, as do efforts to reduce or ignore them.
“It’s a self-perpetuating pattern in which wanting to know what will happen next, that reinforces the uncertainty that fires up anxiety”, says Vaile Wright, who is the APA’s director of research and special projects. Americans today are not only reporting more symptoms of stress, such as irritability and headaches; Americans are doing so with growing frustration. “[Uncertainty] can prevent us from being able to make plans,” Vaile Wright says. “So we do things to mitigate. We hit refresh, and it raises anxiety and stress again.”
The actual reasons for this rising stress levels from the news are not surprising. The news cycle is a 24-hour affair. Updates are generated not only by journalists but by anyone with a social media account, from fundraisers to friends to trolls. “The bulletins are being delivered nonstop throughout the world, and are breaking into our kitchens, family room, and bedrooms, places that we considered safe,” says Mr. Graham Davey, who is the author of the Anxiety Epidemic. What’s more, often they will arrive with a large dose of attitude or bile. When a user comments digitally on news development, she or he is risking starting a Twitter war with an anonymous aggressive army of opinionated, fast-fingered and vindictive holders of the opposite point of view.
As one might expect, with our President Donald Trump being in the White House, more of the Democrats than Republicans report that they are stressed out by the national political conversation. The left blames our President for making ruinous policy decisions, polarizing our country and kicking civility to the dusty curb. Some of the Democrats are saying that they even get irritated just hearing Donald Trump’s voice. However, it turns out that political stress is a pretty bipartisan affair. And almost half of the Republicans also characterize talks with the people across the aisle as being stressful, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans of all political stripes are saying that the future of the nation is a source of stress. Consumers on the left and the right are worried about the impact of the tariff war and how it will affect their household budgets, just as the prospect of a war with Iran unsettles the Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.
“It’s really not just because of President Trump. It is everything, it’s watching the politicians unable to do anything, yelling and setting the tone that anything goes, Ducharme says, who specializes in collaborative divorce counseling. She compares couples in therapy sessions to cable news coverage. They are quite often screaming at each other. They are just not listening, they are going back and forth, with no regard to what the other is saying.
It seems to have first bubbled up during the presidency of George W. Bush. In 2003, when President Bush was in his second year in office, conservative columnist Mr. Charles Krauthammer noted that Bush’s most ardent critics-otherwise the normal people, in the journalist’s words were exhibiting “the acute onset of paranoia, in reaction to some of the policies” of the administration. Krauthammer dubbed that phenomenon, Bush Derangement Syndrome.
Here we are, a decade later, the right found itself suffering a very similar affliction in the reaction to President Barack Obama, whose two terms as commander and chief were defined by overtly bitter partisanship inside of the Beltway and overheated rhetoric outside it, especially in the conservative-leaning publications and on the talk radio. It was not so much paranoia about President Barack Obama’s policies as it was paranoia about the man himself, Ezra Klein wrote on the news site Vox in 2015. That he is, in some fundamental way, different, foreign, untrustworthy, and even traitorous (which I personally disagree).
Under President Trump administration, headline stress disorder has skyrocketed, with critics spinning outraged news segments out of almost any new development, significant or not, while the right-wing media do the same thing in reaction to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House and other Democrats.
There seem to be two main flavors of shows. There are the opinionated-host formats, in which a newscaster preaches from her or his respective corner of the political ring, and there is the panelist approach, in which the guests offering weak and strong points of view, by yelling, and interrupt each other and rolling their eyes a lot. This unorthodox, fisticuffs approach, of course, had been very good for the news business-the so call Donald Trump bump-but for a viewer flipping through all the cable channels for actual information, it definitely can be an anxiety-producing.
Bahram Akradi, for an example, is a big avid consumer of the news, and also the CEO of Life Time, a large health and wellness company with more than 130 upscale athletic clubs across the USA. One of the clubs, amenities are televisions-which have some 50 to 60 per club-for the members to watch while working out (which W.L.F.A.B.W. is against televisions being on when people are working out).
They have always been great for multitaskers and anyone who wants a distraction from their aching muscles. (when working out your attention should be always on the muscles that you’re working out, this is the opinion of W.L.F.A.B.W.). But only starting a few years ago, Akradi felt the cable news broadcasts were offering the wrong kind of diversion, one delivered in often harsh and sometimes demeaning tones. In January 2018, he pulled the plug, or-dering his managers to remove MSNBC, CNN and Fox News from all the Life Time television sets.
It was a very easy decision to make, says Akradi now. We are promoting a healthy way of life, not just nutrition and exercising. When someone is feeling disrespected [by a newscaster], the blood pressure goes up. It is not healthy for anyone. Some 500 to 600 irate members called in to complain about this move, however, Akradi, receive help from his VP of corporate communications, by contacted each member. Today it’s only a non-issue. The Life Time screens in the clubs are tuned to CNBC or Bloomberg, which cover the financial news, or the Discovery Channel. And any members who may want to watch Fox’s Sean Hannity or MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow can only do so on their personal devices, via Wi-Fi, or on mobile devices with individual screens, Akradi says.
Many other businesses have followed in Akradi’s foot-steps. Very recently, after the Life Time announcement, The Steamship Authority, a Massachusetts ferry line that connects Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod and Nantucket, also banned cable news networks from its vessels and terminals, citing complaints from the passengers. More recently, in April 2019, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, which is a retailer that operates convenience stores and food courts on our military bases in more than 30 countries, emailed locations recommending that they steer away from the news and tune in to some sports.
“As a federal entity, we remain neutral on all political issues. The news channels should not be shown on common area TVs due to their divisive political nature”, this note read. In a follow-up email, the Army & Air Force removed references to politics and news however, it stuck to its message that sports were OK. (but, CNN did not return emails requesting comment for this story: Fox News and MSNBC declined to comment.)
My friends, stress, and depression is becoming an epidemic. Please do all that you can to remove and keep out of your lives. May you be always in good health, humbly your Paul Earl.