How to avoid news anxiety

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is fear and/or panic about an uncertain outcome. It usually appears when you are experiencing a stressful situation. Physical symptoms include a racing heart, sweating more than usual, rushed breathing, and having trouble sleeping. Psychological symptoms include feeling helpless or overwhelmed.

It is normal to experience anxiety from time to time, but if such feelings are interrupting your life, you might need to take action. 

Sometimes the news can cause such feelings. It's commonly known as news anxiety

How can you ease news anxiety?

Women artists: Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama (1929– ) is considered by some to be the greatest Japanese artist of our times. Although her initial training was in the traditional nihonga art style, she became frustrated with it and wanted a change. She wrote to Georgia O'Keeffe, who encouraged her to move to New York. The Avant-Garde scene was thriving at the time, and Kusama fell right in with it. Her art became provocative, pushing the edges of what was considered "acceptable". She staged public sex, painting nude people with her signature polka-dots. Her art was, and is, psychedelic.

Kusama's images of dots and lines stem from hallucinations caused by mental illness. Her illness eventually compelled her to return to Japan. She has been very open about her mental health struggles. She says art is what keeps her alive.

Our changing perception of time

According to Vox, there's very little scientific evidence to suggest our perception of time changes as we age. However, people consistently report that the past felt longer.

There are a few different ways to study how we perceive time. Scientists can look at time estimation, for instance: people’s ability to estimate how long an activity took to complete. They can also look at time awareness: the feeling that time "flies" when we are having fun, but then slows to a crawl when we do something boring. Finally, there's time perspective: the sense of a past, present, and future as constructed by our memories.

The importance of close bonds

According to The New York Times, research shows that close friendships are necessary for optimal health and well-being. A key to close friendship is intimacy, and a big part of intimacy is being able to be fully yourself and be understood by others.

If close friendships really are vital to people’s well-being, one might assume we would be able to make them easily. However, it turns out that the opposite may be true: close friendships are important to people because they are so difficult to form.

According to John Cacioppo, a social neuroscientist, humans evolved a natural bias against easily making friends because, in the past, avoiding an enemy was more important than making a friend. If a person mistook a friend for a foe, then that would not endanger their survival, but mistaking a foe for a friend could lead to death.

The benefits of living abroad

According to studies commissioned by the Harvard Business Review (HBR), international experiences can enhance creativity, reduce racial bias, and promote career success.

HBR set out to examine how international experiences can transform a person’s sense of self, specifically self-concept clarity, or the extent to which someone’s understanding of themself is clearly defined, and consistent.

Self-concept clarity has been linked to multiple benefits, such as psychological well-being, the ability to cope with stress, and job performance.

Doodling: why do we do it?

"Doodling" is drawing without thinking about it, on whatever is in front of us. Sometimes it's on the side of meeting notes, or on an envelope or napkin. It's a very common habit. So, why do we do it?

There are a few reasons we doodle:

  • to pass the time when we can't do anything else, like when we're on a train or waiting for a bus;
  • to keep ourselves awake during a boring presentation, lecture, etc.; and

  • to focus on something while meditating.

Studies show that people who doodle while listening to someone talk remember 30% more of what was said than people who don't doodle. Doodling actually helps keep us focused. Our brain stays occupied, so our attention doesn't wander.

How to overcome fears

We face many fears in our lives. People are afraid of all sorts of things: from seeing spiders to talking to other people. In fact, psychologists say that social fears are the most common. According to experts, 77% of people are afraid of public speaking. So why are social fears so widespread?

The psychoanalyst Alfred Adler wrote that when we were children, we felt helpless because we depended so much on our parents. And this fear of helplessness and powerlessness might stay with us forever.

While we are growing up, we are creating an image of ourselves. We hear what people say about us and we analyze that. But in many cases, we judge ourselves in the process. We focus on the judgement more than what we learned. In other words, we tend to remember negative things about ourselves rather than the positive.

When you become your career

According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), many people with high-pressure jobs find themselves unhappy with their careers, despite working hard their whole lives to get to their current position. What happens if you identify so closely with your work that hating your job means hating yourself?

Psychologists use the term “enmeshment” to describe a situation where the boundaries between people become blurred, and individual identities lose importance. Enmeshment prevents the development of a stable, independent sense of self. You can become enmeshed with your career, too.

The work culture in many high-pressure fields often rewards working longer hours with raises, prestige, and promotions. Also, certain careers or career achievements are often highly valued in an individual’s family or community. When high pressure jobs are paired with a big paycheck, individuals can find themselves launched into a new socioeconomic class.

A peak experience

The idea of "peak experiences" was created by psychologist Abraham Maslow in the mid-20th century. Such experiences inspire feelings of intense happiness. They are said to give you a sense that you're one with all of creation.

I've had a few peak experiences. The one I think about the most happened about 20 years ago. At the time I lived in the southwest desert of the United States. About an hour from our home was a small lake called Whitewater Draw where tens of thousands of Sandhill cranes spend the winter. Sandhill cranes are the oldest living bird species, going back at least 2.5 million years. I used to go visit them every year.

Social media's effect on self-image

Much has been made over the years about how mainstream media presents unrealistic beauty standards in the form of photoshopped celebrities or stick-thin fashion models.

Using social media does appear to be correlated with body image concerns. A systematic review of 20 papers published in 2016 found that photo-based activities, like scrolling through Instagram or posting pictures of yourself, were a particular problem when it came to negative thoughts about your body.

In a survey of 227 female university students, women reported that they tend to compare their own appearance negatively with their peer group and with celebrities, but not with family members, while browsing Facebook. The comparison group that had the strongest link to body image concerns was distant peers, or acquaintances.

The puzzle of motivation

In April 2017, economists at LSE looked at 51 studies of pay-for-performance plans, inside of companies. Here's what they said: "We find that financial incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance."

There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. And what worries me, as we stand here in the rubble of the economic collapse, is that too many organizations are making their decisions, their policies about talent and people, based on assumptions that are outdated, unexamined,and rooted more in folklore than in science. And if we really want to get out of this economic mess, if we really want high performance on those definitional tasks of the 21st century, the solution is not to do more of the wrong things, to entice people with a sweeter carrot, or threaten them with a sharper stick. We need a whole new approach.