I’m going on a diet. I can’t stand the way I feel anymore. Dispirited, lethargic, and worried. It may be time to admit that I might be addicted. So, I’m going to stop consuming all this junk. It’s having a negative effect on my health. The problem is, it’s not like smoking, where you can quit absolutely. I can’t shut myself away and consume nothing.
For my addiction is the news. And I have come to realise the negative impact it is having on my well-being. Recently, the news is so overwhelmingly negative and fear inducing, and although any particular story may not affect me directly, I am beginning to recognise a constant low level anxiety, just below my conscious awareness.
In her excellent book, Neuroscience for Coaches, Amy Brann explains the impact of fear and anxiety on the amygdalae in our brains. (These are 2 almond shaped groups of nuclei within the limbic system). ‘The amygdala responds to environmental stimuli that may be picked up consciously or unconsciously. It is specifically involved in motivationally relevant stimuli such as fear and reward. And because fear is very significant, it gets processed ahead of other emotions.’
I am concerned that this negativity build up within me could impact on my creativity and my ability to empathise, collaborate and connect at the level necessary for the work I do. In evolutionary terms, I can understand why fear is more important, but in my life I want to have more creativity and collaboration, particularly as the threat is not a direct one.
I recognise that the more negativity I consume, the stronger the neural circuits become. Last week a colleague offered me some feedback. When he said “Can I give you some feedback” I became aware that my body flooded with adrenaline, a sure sign that I was in ‘fight or flight’. That is not the response I want, it doesn’t help me learn and improve, and it won’t help others because who wants to give feedback to someone and feel you are in a fight?
So I am going to focus on those things I can impact. Not the latest doom laden Brexit news or the latest Trump headline. It may be entertaining, but I am not prepared to pay the personal cost. If you have any thoughts on what we can all do to stay up to date with current affairs, managing some required level of detachment, without having to go into hibernation or denial I would be keen to hear your ideas. In the meantime, I am going to focus on improving my life, cutting out negativity and serving others with my work.
If you want to join me, you could share this post with a comment, and let’s see where it goes!