Your brain’s number one priority is your security. If your safety is threatened, nothing else matters.  The reason is if you are not alive, your relationships, career path, and life goals no longer exist either.

To manage life effectively and keep you out of harm’s way, your amazing brain has a built-in threat-detecting surveillance mechanism that scans the environments that you are in five times per second looking for potential harm.

Did you catch that? Five times per second! Wow!

You’ve probably noticed that being bombarded with information that feels threatening and unknown situations causes stress and feels very uncomfortable. 

Since your brain is busy working hard on your behalf every day, it does not need extra concerns or complications to add to its cognitive load.

In order to reduce the stress response and feel better, your brain is constantly looking for answers and solutions. In this way, it is a natural researcher and problem solver.

When your brain can’t resolve issues, it is not happy!   As well, when concerns and uncertainty are prolonged, it takes a toll physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Life stress is augmented with media indulgence                 

Life stressors are not something new, but they have been especially heightened over the past few years due to multiple and ongoing crises.

While it may seem like it will provide some comfort by regularly checking in with the news and social media (to get a sense of where things are), it rarely helps.  The relief, if any, is temporary.

This is because mainstream media does not provide certainty or solutions. It is designed to keep us on the edge of our seat and coming back for more.

As well, according to research, constantly watching or reading the news can make stress and anxiety worse and lead people to feeling a sense of hopelessness.

Everyone experiences stress in their daily life, work, and family.  As well, there are bigger issues such as dealing with a health concern, war, or the death of a loved one.  So, you don’t want to add additional stress to your life. For example, exposing ourselves to repeated information that you consider negative but have no control over is extremely tiring and demanding on your brain.

According to Dr. Amanda Spray (Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Director at NYU Langone Health), “It is crucially important to engage in self-awareness and check in with yourself regarding how much news you are currently consuming, how repetitive it is versus presenting new information, and the impact it is having on your mental health.”

Stress puts demands on your body and brain

Your brain is an “energy hog”. While it’s only two to three pounds of your body weight, it uses 20 percent of your body’s energy resources — and that is on a good day. Never mind a day that has unexpected twists and turns and uncontrollable concerns that require additional energy for processing.

For immediate, short-term situations, stress is manageable. Your body responds by releasing cortisol, the stress hormone that increases your breathing and heart rates and gets your muscles ready to respond.

If your stress response doesn’t stop firing, however, and stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a big toll on your health.

It turns out that engaging with the media and their repetitive conversations that are negative or stressful will keep you in a stress loop.

“Due to near-constant access to the news 24/7, it can be challenging to moderate our consumption, particularly when there are critical, important, major world events taking place that the media is covering… When news is consumed in extremes, it can be detrimental to one’s mental health,” says Dr. Spray.

Staying on top of the news can be all-consuming and endless, because there are unlimited options to plug in at any given time of the day or night.  There is no such thing as ‘being caught up’.

Symptoms of stress vary

It is important to build self-awareness and to recognize when your body and brain are giving you signs that stress is starting to mount.

Signs of stress:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Disruptive sleep
  • Changes in libido
  • Acne and skin rashes
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Chronic pain
  • Frequent sickness
  • Digestive issues
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Sweating

Are you dealing with any of these symptoms or a cluster of them?

What can you do about it?

There are things you can do to mitigate the overwhelm of ongoing world issues and how you manage it. 

  • Be realistic about what you can control and what you cannot.
  • Instead of putting the lens on everyone and everything around you, put ample attention on you and your self care.
  • Find a worthwhile activity that focuses on making a positive difference.
  • Communicate your concerns in a supportive environment instead of sitting alone worrying. Others are likely experiencing similar distress and would welcome a chance to engage in a meaningful dialogue.

Most of all, know this:  if you have been experiencing signs of stress due to world events, you are not alone. You can, however, use these strategies to take care of yourself and reach out to help others as well.

To Your Fit Brain & Fit Life,