It’s Up to You to Manage the Culture of Breaking News

With instant access to so many important things that improve our lives, technology can really be our friend. But it has a dark side, as well. Too much connection can encourage unhealthy actions and emotions.

Our brains were built to watch our world for danger. From our evolution, the limbic brain watches our world for those things that could jeopardize our survival – real or perceived, physical or emotional. We have a built-in guard dog.

This guard dog is always watching and ready to pounce on danger. 2,000 years ago. This was great. It was how we survived.

But today? It sometimes creates more harm than good.

Think about our current approach to sharing and getting the news. We’ve created a culture of consistent updates, ensuring that we are constantly aware of the dangers in our world.

This has made our guard dog drool with enthusiasm as it constantly barks at everything that shows up in our news feeds, emails and Facebook connections, drawing our urgent attention to whatever news item it is, just in case it is danger.

Today, everything seems to require the headline “breaking news,” as if the fact that you might miss it could mean life or death.

  • A person in another state won the lottery.
  • A school in another country has added dance to their curriculum to preserve a cultural tradition.
  • A vote on the latest legislation of the moment has both sides agreeing to make a difference.
  • 25 people die in a tornado.

All breaking news. And though not all of it is bad or dangerous, the guard dog barks.

Does everything always have to be considered breaking news? Will your world truly stop spinning if you miss a news story at some point during the day?

If you think every breaking news item is worthy of your attention, two alarming things happen:

  1. You miss out on your current moment because you have replaced it with news from places other than your life. Under the guise of “breaking news,” we have our attention diverted from this moment. We lose our connection with ourselves and with others as we let things interrupt our moment. Being informed is important. But being caught up in a minute-by-minute rehash of the news, and mostly alarming or negative news, shifts us into a worry state; we worry about something we have no control over.
  2. You allow the media to tell you what you should see, think about and act on. You have passed your choice to decide for yourself what comes into your world. The world routinely identifies tragedy, challenge and conflict as urgent and breaking. It does this as it sees it as danger and then wants you to know about it, even if it has little or no bearing on you, or isn’t different from the last update they shared. This sense of doom, anxiety and fear that comes in so much of our breaking news keeps our guard dog ready to pounce. In this state, we tax our physical and emotional systems. Our bodies were built to handle stress then return to a non-stress state. Today’s approach to breaking news keeps us all in a stress state – like the dog always watching for an intruder.

So, what do you do about it? 3 ideas:

  1. Decide what you tune in to. Determine your credible information sources. What places share facts about your world so you can be informed and wise in how to be in your world, not anxious, fearful and worried? Sharing information that just activates hype and worry is unproductive because it stops you from wisely assessing and managing life’s challenges in a successful way.
  2. Decide how often you tune in to it. You are the keeper of the remote. Find the off button. Determine when you will have outside news on and when to turn it off. Set up a set of rules or guidelines at home and in the office. Being informed is different than being inundated or distracted. Use the time you used to lock on to the breaking news to develop your hobbies, interests and the things that add value to your life and give it purpose. In the workplace, notice ways to make improvements. 
  3. Decide how you use what you tune in to. Gather information and share it with those who need to know what is happening in their world. Have a family meeting, a team huddle, a Zoom call or create a location on an intranet where the most current information is shared. Use the information to learn, assess, evaluate and make wise decisions.

Take Action
Just because news is shared 24-hours a day, 7 days a week doesn’t mean you need to be pulled into its frequent sense of false urgency. Gather information. Control the information you tune in to and how often. Then step back and assess it. Put a lease on your guard dog to be able to see and choose how to respond to the information behind the hype. This is yours to control. Don’t let the hype of the media distract you from your moment. Even your guard dog needs a nap.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Create Your Stopper

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Why is Everyone so Anxious?

We recently got our dog a prescription for Xanax. She’s an anxious breed, and with each consecutive baby we’ve brought home, her protective instincts have seemingly become more intense. Good in theory, but she really missed the mark on execution. It’s resulted in more than one take-down as she barrels through the kids to bark at whatever vehicle, animal or leaf had the audacity to go by the house.

I wish I was exaggerating.

We’ve tried everything to try to manage this. Various training classes (which, by the way, she masters but seemingly forgets within just a few weeks, despite our efforts to stay vigilant), in-home trainers, e-collars…the list goes on and on.

So, Xanax it is.

I admit I felt ridiculous running to CVS to pick up the dog’s prescription this morning, but as I waited for the pharmacist, I started thinking about how many anxiety medications must be filled for people every day. And I started to ask myself why. Why would we, as humans, who have an extensive ability to communicate with others, to think and choose with intention how to act or respond to a situation, need medication to help us get through the day? Unlike animals that aren’t able to think or communicate past a certain level, we have the ability to critically think. To decide how to respond to an event (vs. react). Yet we don’t do this. I believe it’s because we have become significantly unaware – unaware of ourselves and our world. We move through our days on autopilot, not really thinking or experiencing any moment. So, when we hit an unexpected snag, it can throw us off kilter and, in many situations, send us into a downward spiral. And based on what we see and hear from every media outlet, the solution is some form of medication.

Think about some of the random life events that could push you out of autopilot. A flat tire. A sick kid. The oil tank is empty or the furnace breaks overnight. The refrigerator dies. We fixate on these events and miss the other great events that go on at the same moment. The loving hug from your son. The wonderful neighbor who helped rake your leaves. The teacher who spends extra time on a subject that your kid has trouble with.

When things go our way, we ignore them. When things don’t go our way, we dwell on them. Knowing this, there’s little mystery that we think the day was tough or difficult. It leads many of us to feel like we need something from the outside to help us cope when in reality what we really need is something from the inside to help us see clearly, to help us remember that life has both ups and downs, and that the ups help with the downs.

Take Action
When you are confronted with an event that isn’t normally part of your day, stop and notice what’s going on. Take the time to gather all the information before you react. Take in what’s happening to you, around you, in you. What emotions do you feel? Why? What is actually happening right now? Is it true, or do you believe it to be true (this is a big one for those times when you can interpret an event, sometimes incorrectly, that could lead to an unproductive response)? And for every negative event you notice, work with intention to counterbalance it with a positive event. They are out there. See them. Experience them. Remember them.

By taking just a few minutes to tune in to yourself, to stop and notice what’s happening in you and around you, you gain greater self- and world-awareness. With this awareness, you can learn to manage your response to various events, to use the dimmer switch to turn up or turn down your strengths and liabilities. In the process, you’ll learn to operate in a less anxious state.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Value of Setbacks

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