hands holding a smartphone with newspapers in the background

Is It Okay To Take A Break From The News?

The further we go through 2020, the crazier the year seems to get! The coronavirus pandemic is ramping up (again) and there are worries about more potential layoffs and job losses amid the new surge. Top these concerns off with the back-and-forth sniping over the presidential election’s disputed results and many people have begun asking is it okay to take a break from the news?

You bet it is! In fact, we highly recommend it, particularly to those who have already been experiencing heightened stress and anxiety due to the pandemic.

Does Watching The News Cause Anxiety?

In a word, yes. While you may feel that tuning in to the latest headlines keeps you informed, in reality, doing so causes information overload. There’s even a term for it – headline stress disorder. Although not an actual medical term, the phrase was coined by psychologist Dr Steven Stosny to define the high emotional responses one has after viewing endless media reports.

You see, by checking in and reading (or watching) the gloom and doom headlines, we begin to feel as if the world is on a roller coaster we can’t escape from. One minute we hear there may be a vaccine forthcoming, the next we hear that it may not be as effective as we’d hoped. Or we hear that the election has been called by the media, then we hear that the results are suspect and a recount is happening.

This rise of hope, followed by having it taken away only increases our anxiety and the feeling that the world is out of control.

On top of that, for those who have obsessive compulsive disorder, this constant checking of headlines and news stories can become a new ritual. They feel better while scrutinizing the news, which can reduce their anxiety if nothing has changed over the course of the day. But, it also triggers a cycle of compulsive checking just to be sure there isn’t some new disaster lurking.

Psychological Effects Of The News

In a 2019 article by Hoog and Verboon, published in the British Journal Of Psychology, the authors pointed to several studies that showed a direct relationship between negative news exposure and negative emotional states.

They report that “After being exposed to negative news reports, positive affect decreased, whereas negative affect, sadness, worries, and anxiety increased. Other studies have found indirect effects on psychological distress and negative affect through an increase in stress levels and irrational beliefs.”

Although researchers aren’t sure exactly what is at play that causes adverse reactions like depression or anxiety after habitually viewing negative media stories, they theorize that it has a lot to do with personal relevance.

To support this, Hoog and Verboon, pointed to studies of people’s stress levels as they related to the 9/11 attacks and also the Boston Marathon bombings. In both cases, people’s anxiety and PTSD levels were actually higher four weeks after these incidents than they were immediately after the attacks.

This is likely because of personal relevance. The authors noted that “…people who are anxious or depressed are more likely to focus on negative information or information that corresponds with their mental state (Davey & Wells, 2006), which in turn only increases their anxiousness or depression.”

How Do You Deal With News Anxiety?

Here are some self-care tips that can help you reduce your anxiety by giving you a way to regain control:

First, stop watching news coverage and limit your time on social media. As we’ve discussed, when something grips us with fear, it is sometimes hard to break away from the catastrophic thoughts that come along with it. By endlessly checking headlines and reading social media posts about current events, you don’t give your mind a chance to gain some mental distance from it.

Also remember that news coverage is written in a way that makes us tense and concerned. A fearful headline makes us click on it – and it’s what keeps the reporters or news channels in business.

Do some stress reducing activities: Meditate, take a walk, sit on your patio in the sunshine, or try an online yoga class. Or take one of the endless online classes and virtual museum tours that have popped up during this time of social distancing. Being active lessens the stress hormone, cortisol, and also serves as a distraction.

Additionally, you might focus on doing something you’ve been meaning to do. Now is the time to get organized, clean out that cabinet, or try a new recipe or hobby. Staying active means your mind will be engaged by something pleasant, which will help to reframe negative emotions in a more positive way.

Therapy In A Safe Environment

Sometimes self-care is not enough to get relief from anxiety. If your symptoms seem to be getting worse or if you find that a couple of weeks have gone by and you are still feeling more anxious than you think you should about current events, you may have developed an anxiety disorder. In that case, it’s best to turn to a professional.

Often, just talking through your concerns may be enough to reduce them, however speaking to a therapist can benefit you in many other ways by helping you sort out your fears and allowing you to gain a new perspective.

If you are concerned about exposure to the coronavirus during therapy, most mental health practitioners now have tele therapy options available. With tele therapy, you can talk to your therapist from your home, so there is no need to go into the office.

We Are Here For You

To get more information and help for headline news anxiety, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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symbols of USA politcal parties

How Election Anxiety Affects Children

While the country waits for the official results of the 2020 election, anxiety is mounting. In this unprecedented pandemic year, the highly contentious and now unresolved election has raised everyone’s stress levels. With the topic being on everyone’s mind, there is no doubt that this election anxiety has impacted the nation’s children, as well.

No matter which side of the debate you land on, it is likely that the election has been a topic of conversation in your home. Shortly before the election, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a “Stress in America” Harris poll designed to gauge stress levels.

The results showed that the majority of Americans (68 %, in fact) faced a significant amount of stress about the presidential race, and this stress was felt across party lines. How much the pandemic stress has contributed is unknown, but it is clear that the hotly debated and at times, nasty, election has affected many people.

Results Of Election Stress On Kids

With so many adults talking about the election unknowns, their distress and fear is trickling down to their children.

Young kids may not understand the implications of the votes, but they will pick up on their parent’s stress even when parents try to shield them.

Older children who understand the election process may have become victims of bullying as teens take sides. Those who haven’t been harassed have likely felt a sense of loss of control or may have gone through arguments with peers who fall on the opposite side politically.

How To Help Kids Cope With The 2020 Election Anxiety

The first thing to do when helping your child through both election stress and the pandemic anxiety that has dogged us this year is to give them a safe outlet for their fears. Let them know that it is normal to feel distress over things that are out of our control. Tell them it is okay to ask questions or to talk about their emotions.

The next thing to do is to limit everyone’s news coverage and social media exposure during troubling times. Binging on news reports about the election recounts or debates about the outcome only serves to keep emotions running high.

Instead, do something together as a family. Get out the family board games, work on holiday crafts, take a walk, visit a park, or engage your children in other activities that they enjoy. The point is to take care of yourself and your children’s mental health first.

The election can also become a life lesson if you teach your children to respect other’s opinions and political parties. Help them understand that it is okay if people have different beliefs because we all have come from different backgrounds and experiences. Tolerance for another viewpoint does not mean they have to agree with it.

In addition, when the winning candidate is officially declared, your reaction can also be a life lesson for your kids. Showing them how to be gracious if your candidate won or how to respectfully accept defeat and disappointment if they didn’t teaches kids how to work towards a kinder world going forward.

Helping Children With Anxiety

For more information about how our mental health professionals and child psychologists can help you or your child deal with election anxiety, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Getting to Know Anxiety Book Cover

Getting to Know Anxiety

Without a doubt, today’s world is stressful. The end result is that anxiety and mood concerns are now common worldwide and the numbers are skyrocketing.

Written by two mental health experts with nearly eight decades of patient treatment between them, Getting to Know Anxiety describes the basics of anxiety and anxiety disorders in down-to-earth language. In it, Drs. Rosen and Gross offer readers an overview of today’s challenging mental health issues and the most current treatment methods available, as well as practical strategies for mental and emotional self-care.

Getting to Know Anxiety provides a deeper look into everything anxiety-related including:
•Anxiety and General Anxiety Disorder
•Panic Attacks, Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia
•Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Intrusive Thoughts, along with the OCD variations of Hoarding, Religious OCD, Homosexual OCD and Hypersexuality
•Health Anxiety, including help for reducing Covid19-related anxiety
•Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as Complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder
•Social Anxiety
•Phobias, including real-world advice for overcoming fear of flying and speech anxiety
•Childhood Anxiety Disorders
•Reducing stress through self-care
•Professional therapies and guidance about when you should seek professional help

If you are suffering and ready to unravel the mysteries of better emotional and mental health, start by getting a copy of Getting to Know Anxiety today.

Seek Professional Help If Your Anxiety Is Getting Worse.

If you are having a lot of trouble getting out because you are too anxious or your anxiety is interfering with your daily life and has continued for longer than two to three weeks, it is time to speak with a professional.

You’re Safe With Us

If you are struggling with anxiety, reach out and get the help you need. Our office has virtual options available as well as in-person appointments.

For more information, please contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today.  

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woman grocery shopping while wearing a mask

Coronavirus Anxiety In The New Normal

Life during the pandemic is slowly returning to a “new normal.” Here in Florida, we’ve reopened just about everything as long as certain rules are followed and masks and social distancing is used.

While many welcome these new freedoms, some people are either wary of going out or are finding their coronavirus anxiety levels are still too high to consider it. Although the prospect of reopening is both welcomed and scary, there are ways to help reduce your anxiety.

First, Be Kind To Yourself If You Are Anxious.

Being worried about your safety and that of loved ones is completely normal.

Knowledge is empowering. It can be helpful to get the facts about the virus from trustworthy sources, like the CDC or your local health department. You should, however, avoid getting information strictly from social media (or even some news reports) where facts and stories are often written in ways designed to scare you.

Be Realistic About Your Expectations.

When venturing out the first few times, keep your expectations low. You will likely relax more once you see that most stores have mask requirements, most businesses have social distancing procedures in place and most people are wearing masks and using hand sanitizer.

Take Baby Steps As You Begin To Emerge From Sheltering In Place.

Just because a phased reopening says you can go to a bar or eat in a restaurant doesn’t mean you have to. Making careful decisions about where you’ll go and when can help you feel in control, which is calming.

When you are ready to resume going places, look for the safer options. When dining out, for example, it can ease some anxiety if you eat outside on the patio instead of inside the restaurant.

If you need to get your hair done, try to make an appointment during off-peak days and times. If you have a dental or doctor visit scheduled, call the office beforehand to find out what new protocols they have in place for safe visits. Maybe you’ll choose to wait in your car until you can be seen, rather than in the reception area.

Or, Jump In With Both Feet.

This is the “rip off the band aid” approach, but it can be highly effective for some people. This is known as a flooding technique.

Wherein taking baby steps might potentially keep your anxiety high in between each new experience, flooding lumps everything together so you get several of those dreaded “firsts” out of the way all at once.

With the flooding method, you might decide to hit the gym, go to the grocery store afterwards, and then end the day by dining out at a favorite restaurant. By doing so, you will see that businesses are doing all they can to keep customers safe, which can ease your anxiety.

Of course, whether you take baby steps or you go all out with reopening activities, you will want to do it responsibly by wearing a mask and staying socially distant.

Keep In Mind That We Need Social Connections.

Social isolation has played a big role in the unease and insecurity we have experienced during the pandemic. Getting out and seeing other people (even just in the aisle of a store) can make us feel like life is more normal, which can improve mental health.

Seek Professional Help If Your Anxiety Is Getting Worse.

If you are having a lot of trouble getting out because you are too anxious or your anxiety is interfering with your daily life and has continued for longer than two to three weeks, it is time to speak with a professional.

You’re Safe With Us

If you are struggling with coronavirus anxiety, reach out and get the help you need. Our office has virtual options available as well as in-person appointments.

For more information, please contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today.  

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frazzled college student

Is The Pandemic Affecting Your College Student’s Mental Health?

Across the country, another year of college is in full swing. Although some schools have gone to strictly virtual learning in an effort to control infection spread among their students, many are combining this option with in-person classes, thus creating more potential for exposure to the virus. Also, many campuses are dealing with students who flaunt social distancing guidelines and gather for parties, which spreads it even more. While many young people were eager to get back to school after being fairly isolated during the summer, these seemingly reckless situations are negatively affecting the mental health of many students.

When the American College Health Association collected information for their Spring, 2020, National College Health Assessment, an average of 49.6 percent of the 50, 307 respondents reported moderate stress levels. Another 24.9 percent said they were experiencing high levels of stress – and that survey only included schools who had begun their data collection prior to March 16, 2020, when many states began shutting down. Today, those numbers are much higher.

In fact, according to a study done at nine public research universities across the U. S. and led in part by the University of California, Berkeley, Center for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE), the incidence of major depressive disorder has more than doubled since Spring, 2019.

Anxiety Symptoms

There are several factors which can indicate whether your college student is suffering from anxiety. They may not have all these symptoms or they may only have a couple, so it’s important to talk to your child if they are experiencing some of these concerns.

  • Problems concentrating on coursework (or in general)
  • Distress about their own health or the health of loved ones
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Trouble sleeping
  • An increase in the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
  • A worsening of mental health conditions they may already have

There are also physical symptoms of anxiety that can include:

  • Headaches or an increase in migraines
  • Shortness of breath or a rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea and sweating
  • Muscle tension

Self-Care For Student’s Mental Health

To help reduce the mental health aspect of college life during the pandemic, we recommend the following:

  • Know that this is temporary. At some point, we’ll have a vaccine and the pandemic will ease.
  • Meanwhile, stay connected with friends and family, either in person while safely social distancing or via a video application, such as Zoom or Skype.
  • Look for campus support groups, which will help them feel less alone.
  • Maintain a routine. As much as possible, they should try to get up or go to sleep on a schedule, eat at regular mealtimes, do coursework on a schedule, etc.
  • Set daily goals for completing assignments.
  • Set aside time to get outside. Getting fresh air, a change of scenery, and endorphin-releasing exercise can help to rejuvenate the mind.
  • Make time every day to do something they enjoy. It can be as simple as carving out time to read, do yoga or meditate, or write in a journal.
  • Limit online and social media time to avoid being sucked into the gloomy headlines that are so prevalent right now.
  • Know that it is okay to feel scared or angry, homesick, sad or anxious. But they should tell someone how they are feeling and if they seem to be feeling worse.

If these self-care measures aren’t enough to help your student with their distress, suggest they reach out to their campus’ psychological services. The campus counseling center likely can help through phone, telehealth or video platforms. This eliminates the need for your child to visit the center in-person.

We Care

If your college student is struggling with the mental health effects of the pandemic, we also can help. We offer both virtual / online and in-office treatment options. For more information, contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email The Center today.

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If, And How, Does Covid Shift The Themes, Styles And Goals of Psychotherapy?

One of The Center’s founders, Andrew Rosen, Ph.D. was recently a guest on The Experts Speak, a free podcast series from The Florida Psychiatric Society, to discuss some of the changes, themes, and pivot points that telemedicine and the Covid crisis have produced, and how it may modify – or not — the styles and goals of psychotherapy.

Listen to the full podcast here.

Professional Help For Anxiety

We offer both virtual / online and in-office treatment options.

For more information, please contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today. 

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