How much do you pay to watch or read the news every day? I’m not talking about your cable bill, or your subscription to the Wall Street Journal or your local paper.
I’m talking about what my BreakPoint colleague and friend Roberto Rivera calls the “psychic cost” of watching the news.
I’m guessing you can imagine the following scenario: You’re home from work (or you’ve just put the kids to bed) and you switch on the television. The cable news program you decided to watch is breaking down the recent Supreme Court decision on marriage. Then comes the latest video filled with blood and carnage from somewhere in the Middle East. Oh, and now you learn that California has just passed a bill to mandate that schools let transgendered children choose which bathroom they want to use.
So, how are you feeling? Angry? Do you find yourself talking back to the TV? The kids are making noise upstairs when they should be going to sleep — and perhaps your frustration at the news spills over and you end up barking “Be quiet up there!” a little louder and less pleasantly than you wanted.
Worse yet, the accumulation of bad moral, political, and economic news sends you into a funk. You begin thinking that the country, the culture and everything you hold dear are heading south — for good. You are tempted to despair.
Then there are the physical costs of stressing out over the news. In an article at the Huffington Post about managing news-induced stress, psychologist Deborah Rozman had this to say:
“Continuously amping up negative emotions releases excessive levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline throughout the body. ... We may not sleep as well, feel confused and tired or on edge, have brain fog, and our immune system may become suppressed.
“The long-play version of this can cause a cascade of physical health symptoms including headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, stress eating, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, panic attacks, depression and insomnia — chronic modern diseases.”
Yikes. Okay, so what can we do? First of all, I am not suggesting you don’t watch or read the news. It’s wise to know what’s happening with the economy or with health care. We all need to keep up with what’s happening in government, the schools and in the culture at large, and we should.
But let me propose a few simple things. First of all: Scale back. Limit the time you spend in front of the TV or computer screen. Very few stories, despite what the networks tell you, are truly “urgent.” Here’s a thought: take a “sabbatical” from the news ... every Sunday. Or if Sunday doesn’t work, pick another day of the week, and stick to it.
Second: if you feel yourself stressing out over the news, stop and go do something physical instead. Grab the kids and shoot some hoops. Take a walk. Weed the garden or head to the pool.
Or third, and better yet, step away and pray. As Chuck Colson would say, if anything, the news shouldn’t drive us crazy, it should drive us to our knees. There is a reason Paul told us in Philippians 4 to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
“And then the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Finally, do not despair. Keep your perspective! Jesus promised us we would have trials and tribulations in this world, but He also told us He has overcome the world. And that’s good news.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: July 10, 2013