Do You Have Headline Anxiety?

My local newspaper, The Oregonian, today had a giant front-page headline: DOWN, DOWN…, with a jagged line tracking the Dow Jones industrial average for the last year.

Whether you get your news online or from a newspaper, or both, it’s easy to have headline anxiety. You know how it is: you read a headline, and your heart starts to beat faster. Television news can have the same effect, and CNN with its running headlines at the bottom of the screen, is particularly good at raising anxiety.

Even when a legitimate cause for concern exists, headline anxiety does not help us respond thoughtfully to the challenges at hand. The various forms of media have an interest in upping our anxiety: more viewers, site visitors and newspapers sold. But we don’t have to follow their lead. It’s better for us and for those we lead if we can manage our anxiety in response to external events. When leaders can be thoughtful rather than reactive, creative solutions are more likely to emerge.

Here are some suggestions:
— ration your exposure to news. Choose selected times during the day (or even every other day) to catch up.
— use the news as an opportunity for prayer rather than outrage.
— spend as much time reading books as you do news (this will help give you a longer perspective).

I made one small choice myself recently. I’ve stopped reading the first section of the newspaper while I eat breakfast. I discovered I wasn’t even tasting my food because I was too concerned about what I was reading. Now I read the fun stuff (comics and entertainment) first. I catch up on the news while I finish my coffee.

How can you manage your headline anxiety?

3 Responses to Do You Have Headline Anxiety?

  1. Abigail Stockman says:

    I’ve turned off NPR in the morning and find my renewal in Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, especially the chorale that Peter, Paul, and Mary use as the setting for “Because All Men are Brothers”. In spite of their title’s sexism – the words are more hopeful than anxious.

  2. Thanks, Israel. Beethoven sounds like a great idea.

  3. A timely post, Margaret. For the past three days I’ve stopped listening to NPR on the drive to work. It was more anxiety-producing than the stress of dealing with rush hour highway traffic. While I recognize the seriousness of the financial times the singular extended over-focus on that one issue over the past weeks is more than I cared to take. Now I play my Beethoven CDs on the ride ot work and arrive in a better frame of mind. And guess what, at the end of the day the news is the same.

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