The news surrounds seniors in this modern age. Entire television channels are dedicated to spreading information, and the latest headlines are just a tap or click away thanks to apps, social media and podcasts. Even looking for an email from a loved one offers the opportunity to check out current events across the globe.
While it's good for seniors to stay informed, finding a balance between viewing the news and stepping back to relax is important. Research has proven that watching the news can cause stress, which can be harmful physically and mentally.
To help seniors spot the warning signs of stress in their own lives, here are four ways watching the news excessively negatively affects health.
In many ways checking the news feels comforting. Knowing what is happening can give a sense of control. It's also common to search for hope or a light at the end of the tunnel when something distressing happens.
However, obsessively watching the news can quickly backfire by keeping seniors' minds fixed on upsetting situations. Being surrounded by harsh news articles can cause feelings of hopelessness and anxiety that circumstances will never improve, which may lead to depression or panic attacks.
Catching up on the news, especially shortly before bed, may cause disruptions to seniors' normal sleep patterns. Since stress makes it harder to relax, they may find it difficult to stop thinking and fall asleep. They also might experience unpleasant dreams.
Breaks in sleep routines caused by stress often worsen over time. The longer insomnia persists, the more tempting it can become to nap during the day, making it even harder to fall asleep at the correct time at night and further aggravating the problem.
Worry elevates the heart rate, causing the heart to work harder than normal. If stress levels continue to increase, inflammation forms in the body, applying even more pressure on the heart and arteries.
This buildup of strain on the heart can lead to cardiovascular disease and heart attacks over time.
In recent years, doctors have discovered that the stomach is the second-largest center of nerves in the human body after the brain. Many of the brain's nerve connections are tied directly to the nerves in the digestive tract, so the two organs heavily affect one another.
As feelings of stress and anxiety increase, they often trigger digestive problems such as indigestion, nausea, diarrhea and cramps. Chronic stress can lead to peptic ulcers and a weakened immune system due to a decrease in antibodies.
There are ways that seniors can take charge of their health and help reduce stress caused by negative news. Read below for a few of our favorite viewing tips.
Limiting the amount of time they spend on the news each day gives seniors the chance to control their stress, instead of their stress controlling them. In addition to monitoring how much time they spend watching or reading the news, seniors should note the amount of time they spend thinking about the news or talking about it with others.
Another good way to lower stress is to balance the bad reports with fun and positive news stories from local newspapers and sites that focus on upbeat headlines.
At Bethesda Senior Living Communities, we know that getting involved in volunteer work can have amazing benefits for seniors, including providing a sense of purpose and improved self-esteem. By making a difference in the lives of others, seniors can change some of the bad news they watch on television into good things that help those in need.
There are many ways seniors can get started, including attending breakfast feeds in their community and donating their time to local ministries and organizations.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Although it can be hard for seniors to understand the suffering they witness in the media, they can lean on the Bible for reassurance that God is in control in every situation.
In Isaiah 55, God promises his covenant is free for everyone that will come to him and receive his forgiveness and blessing. He reminds believers his ways and thoughts are higher than theirs, so he has a plan for their good even when they can't understand why a bad event has happened.
He also uses both good and bad circumstances to draw his children closer to himself, ensure they can enjoy the abundant life on earth promised by Jesus (John 10:10), and spend an eternity with him free from all sorrows and pain (Revelations 21:4-5).