We all have that friend on Facebook who’s undeniably on top of the news. She’s also angry, ranting, and emotionally out of control. It’s an approach that reminds me of the classic bumper sticker: “If you’re not mad, you’re not paying attention.” Today we’re challenging that notion by seeking healthy ways to deal with the emotional side effects of consuming news media. Can you be an informed, up-to-date girl who cares about what’s going on in the world without losing your mind? Integrative Medicine Physician Ashley Maltz, MD. says yes. She has a holistic approach to wellness, and practices medicine “from and for the soul.” According to Ashley, staying sane doesn’t mean squashing out bad feelings or learning to become less emotional about the news we’re consuming. And it certainly doesn’t mean putting our heads in the sand and avoiding news information in general. The secret is becoming more mindful and strategic about how we’re consuming news, and giving ourselves a healthy space to react to it with whatever emotions happen. Read on to discover Ashley’s insight and tips on how to stay informed while protecting your good vibes, too:
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Tell us a little about your background, Ashley. What makes you an expert in your field?
I’m a Board-Certified Internal and Integrative Medicine Physician. I’ve studied health, wellness and various healing practices for the last 16 years. In my private practice in downtown Austin, I use natural means of achieving health with patients as much as possible and I balance that approach with any medications a patient may be taking or needing. In addition to holistic primary care, I’ve had extensive training in medical acupuncture, mind-body medicine, natural chronic pain management, clinical nutrition and the use of herbs and supplements for a variety of medical conditions. I’m always learning and growing in order to serve the needs of my patients and those of the general public.
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Do you believe it’s possible to stay informed of current events without fueling negative emotions and feelings?
I do. In fact, that’s how I live. I stay informed of current affairs, yet don’t delve into the heaviness they create for too long. I allow myself to feel sad, angry or frustrated in the moment, then redirect myself into a place of gratitude and calmness. I truly believe this is the only way we can both stay aware of current issues and stay calm within our bodies and minds.
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Do you know some highly informed people, who are also relaxed and positive? If so, what are their best habits we can learn from?
I sure do. They’re people who have removed themselves (at least partially) from social media, people who don’t watch TV news (or TV for that matter) and people who do lots of self care (meaning they take extra time to decompress from their day regularly.) They also don’t overschedule their lives, leaving plenty of leisure time for themselves and loved ones. They enjoy physical activity and regular meditation. These people may not be 100% up-to-date on current events, but they’re well networked and eventually find out about happenings around the world… albeit, a bit more organically.
Cool. Can you give us a few bullet point ideas we can incorporate into our daily routines in order to become more relaxed, happy, informed ladies?
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Set aside a designated time for news.
When you carve out a designated space in your schedule to digest news information, you should also give yourself time to reflect and respond to it. Really feel the emotions you have about current events. If you don’t, you may find yourself dealing with it throughout the day. Equally important is developing the skill of being able to “redirect” yourself to a calm, grateful place before going on with your day.
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Curate your media stream.
It’s good to remember that the “news” is a business, and some media outlets thrive on playing up disaster, conflict, and scandal. Look to reputable outlets (like NPR) who strive to deliver bipartisan news in a professional manner. It’s also important to make sure that you’re consuming positive stories and information on a regular basis as well. MSN even has an online section for good news — uplifting stories that will leave you feeling inspired.
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Be mindful of your social media use.
People post their reactions to news on social media almost immediately. It’s wise to limit social media use if you respond to these reactions strongly. Unplugging from social media daily (turning off notifications) is advised. Also consider unfollowing or “seeing less” of contacts who tend to upset you.
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Do NOT watch news before bed.
This can increase levels of a stress hormone called cortisol and keep you up at night. Turning off screens at least one hour before bed helps your brain know it’s time for sleep. And proper amounts of sleep help you process information, handle stress and live a healthful life.
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Studies show that we need nature in our lives. When feeling overwhelmed with current events, it’s best to go for a walk, hike or dig in the dirt to redirect our emotions and uplift out spirits. Plus, the sun provides the added benefits of vitamin D – a hormone needed to maintain a healthy body.
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Meditation helps calm the racing thoughts that bad news can invoke. Start by paying attention to your breath or focusing on a calming phrase like, “I am calm and peaceful”. Repeat it to yourself over and over while in a relaxing position. Your body and mind will thank you.
(Check out our story on meditation here.)