Don’t let bad news bog you down

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  • Published 15.11.17

Despite numerous studies and speculations, scientists are still not clear exactly how stress affects us physically and psychologically. Some stress is actually good, creating a state of readiness and motivating us to act. But when levels are excessive, they inhibit our ability to perform well or think clearly.

Work by Gary Evans and colleagues at Cornell have shown that when individuals are continually exposed to unpleasant stressors such as loud noises, overcrowding, air pollution and traffic congestion, they show increased levels of cortisol, increased blood pressure, elevated levels of anxiety, and an increased vulnerability to depression. However, there’s another source of negative stress that’s been largely overlooked. Every day we hear about terrible events happening not to us, but to others — terrorist attacks, car crashes, hurricanes, earthquakes. These events make us feel anxious, distractible and most of all, helpless. What can you do, for yourself and for others, in the face of so much distressing information?

Listen to the news when you’re likely to feel rested and positive — and when you can pay full attention. If you’re focused rather than distracted, you’re more likely to react calmly and logically.

Imagining the pain others are feeling won’t help them. Instead, think about what you might do to alleviate their suffering — by making a donation to a relevant charity, for example.

Resolve to make a positive difference every day. Small kindnesses such as taking time to talk to a lonely neighbour or thanking someone who has helped you guarantees you’ll make the world a better place, for at least one other person.

Linda Blair / The Daily Telegraph