I must begin by making a confession today. I have had symptoms of PTNS (Post Traumatic News Syndrome). I am self-diagnosed and self-medicated, which goes against everything that I believe in the way of treatment of the mind or body. First, let me let you in on how this syndrome was triggered and subsequently named by me. As a child, adolescent and even college student I received current event assignments. Back then (I am Gen X), we were asked to watch the news, and cut out articles in the newspaper or magazines and then write a summary to prove we understood the content. This was considered socially responsible education and foundational to becoming a productive, and educated member of society, of which I am!
Fast forward to the millennial and I began to recoil from the news in most forms as it had become for me assaultive, draining, and divisive, diluted as well as embellished (interesting how it can be diluted and embellished, huh?). The images and constant inundation of negative stories and frightening themes replayed every 7 minutes, re-tweeted, posted, shared and liked had begun to saturate my mind and honestly, I felt this depressive spirit of hopelessness that was pressing down on me and those around me about the condition of the world.
That is where my PTSN was born. My sleep was disturbed. I found myself avoiding live television, and social media. Some of the images replayed over and over in my mind. I began to question my safety and the safety of friends, family and the world. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is imperative to be aware of the things taking place in the world, nation, city, and my neighborhood as what you don’t know can hurt you or put you in harm’s way. But, how do I encourage the hope in people whose everyday lives are mini versions of ISIS (toxic family relationships), prejudice (biases of any kind..you name it), political turmoil (children’s class ranking or career building challenges) which I believe is part of my calling, when I myself was trying to reconnect to hope?
So, I called a time-out! I purposely and unapologetically turned off the noise of the news. I decided that I needed to limit the time that I watched the news to once a day. If the story was on a loop, I only watched it once and then turned it off. I recognized that reading the news was less intrusive than watching, so I watched reputable news outlets. I started paying attention to how I was feeling during or after watching/reading. I determined that if I was feeling overwhelmed that I in fact was overwhelmed. After acknowledging my feelings and even sitting with them for a bit, I would choose an activity that was restorative, uplifting or restful. I reached for the things that settled my heart, mind and spirit. I reactivated the activities that brought my body back into a state of homeostasis. For me that was praying, reading and becoming mindfully observant of all of the good around me (of which there is MUCH!). I went to the doctor and took my blood pressure meds correctly, engaged in more mindful food consumption and yes exercise too! I connected to people who were aware of the current state of things and looking for positive ways to make changes. I talked about my distress to those who were safe (non-judgmental). I became purposeful about being a part of solutions instead of just asking questions and recounting what I heard. I focused on the needs of those that I had the privilege of interacting with, so that they could feel my hope for them and become hopeful in spite of their circumstance. My spirit lifted. I spoke words of encouragement and found people responding to it. You see, I believe that we all want a peaceful, fruitful, existence and most of all to give and receive love in its many forms.
So the thought that I leave with you is that the choice is ours on what we allow to saturate our minds, bodies, and spirits. We have to first recognize when we are being affected by what we watch, hear or listen to, become aware of how we are feeling and then decide how we will respond to it. Isn’t that what we want our children to learn? I am better attuned to what my needs are in the areas of information and also have incorporated daily positive coping mechanisms to maintain health and balance. I now consider myself in remission from my Post Traumatic News Syndrome. Find your way back to hopefulness, positive outlooks and peace. When you find your way back, then walk someone else down the path. That’s an impactful way for us to take part in the shift to a world that we all want to live in.