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When Trying To Be Informed Feels Like Trauma

I’ve been seeing the words “trigger warning” on a lot of social media posts and news stories lately. It’s similar to spoilers, but followed by something much more emotionally disturbing. The week after the election, last November, I avoided all cable news and streamed a very cheesy holiday movie every day. I called my Netflix Cleanse and it was exactly what my spirit needed. I found the balance. But, most of us don’t have time to find the balance when inundated with emotionally driven news easily accessible from the palm of our hand. Most of us also have a hard time shutting it off completely.

While studying Trauma Informed Yoga, I have become fascinated with learning how trauma is stored in the physical body. We don’t have to have participated in or been a first hand witness to be affected by a traumatic event and watching the news can certainly feel like we are witnessing someone else's trauma.

We know that if we fill our mind with nothing but negative, our body will react as such. We will mentally be in a negative space with the physical not far behind. But, when we are inundated with images and events for the sake of being informed, where do we draw the line? It’s not uncommon after watching the news for an extended period of time to feel out of control and in a world full of doom and gloom. Here are a few things I practice when I want to stay connected to current events without sacrificing my peace.

Put a time limit on how much news to watch.

Here's the cycle.

Bad thing happens

Breaking news about bad thing

Panel discussion about bad thing

New exclusive video about bad thing

Further investigation about bad thing.

“Nothing new has happened. Stop watching.” My husband has had to tell me this when he knows I’ve been sucked into the negative news cycle. But, I feel like I have to watch because I don’t want to miss anything. If we operate from a place of missing out, then our mind and body will think that something is going to happen. Then, hello anxiety which is essentially fear based on something that hasn’t even transpired yet.Get off the hamster wheel. Turn the television off. Put the phone on the charger and walk away.

Diversify your cable news choices.

It’s crucial to remember that the information we are receive is coming from a human perspective with a biased point of origin. It’s unfortunate that it is getting increasingly difficult to access unbiased news. Change the channel to another network you don’t regularly watch. You don’t have to agree with the views because they are just that. VIEWS. Acknowledge the awareness that the truth is somewhere in between. This practice allows for questions, processing and individual thought. You will be stronger for it.

Try informative short podcasts.

I love starting my day with a podcast. These selections all feature award winning journalists and run around 30 minutes. Start Here by ABC News discusses the top stories of the day. It is slightly biased, but gives informative background information and context about current issues and why we should care about them. The Daily By The New York Times was recommended to me by a good girlfriend. It’s not one of my regulars, but like Start Here, it gives great insight into what issues and events are affecting America. The Global News Podcast by the BBC is incredible at detailing events happening around the world. It discusses the United States from a global perspective which is also important to hear. I am reminded that we are but one small corner of the world yet we are all connected. This is easy to forget. All of these podcasts are updated daily and available to listen to or download from their websites or wherever you listen to podcasts.

You don’t have to see everything.

Last summer, videos of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd were everywhere, including the palms of our hands. I saw stills, but when it was the video of a person dying, I closed my eyes and scrolled by. I’ve been practicing this a lot this week with the circulation of a horrible video of a police officer being abused and ultimately killed at the Capitol insurrection. This could be an opportune time to investigate social media settings and deactivate autoplay on videos. But it’s also worthy to note that there are a significant number of people who may not have seen these images had they not been confined to their homes, in a pandemic situation. They may not have felt compelled to learn and take action. Sometimes good can come out of a traumatic situation. For there to be peace, there has to be an acknowledgement that disruption and injustice do exist. How we choose to see that is up to us.

The words ignorant/ignore stem from the latin word “ignorare” which means “to disregard.” Don’t disregard the voice you have simply because you don’t know or understand everything that’s being broadcast. My sister gave me some of the best advice last summer. “You have to protect yourself from what you take in.” Thankfully, there are a multitude of ways to learn. Ignorance is truly the most dangerous choice.

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