As a veteran broadcast meteorologist, I worked in and around the news business for nearly 30 years. Sometimes news is “good,” but so often, it’s “bad.” Murder, financial crises, racial injustice, abuse, tornadoes, unemployment, robbery, hurricanes, danger, viruses, death - so much of what gets reported is the bad side of society. In journalism school I was taught “if it bleeds, it leads” and, “Dog bites man isn’t news, but man bites dog? Now that is news!”
The benefit of watching just 30--45 minutes of news each day (like most consumers) is you hear the bad, and a little good, and then go about your life. You hear the highlights. You get the latest. Then you go to work, play with your kids, and enjoy your friends.
You can compartmentalize the bad part of society if it doesn’t directly impact you.
As a physician or medical worker, that is more difficult. You are surrounded by some good, but a lot of bad, news. You see the stories of COVID-19 on TV, and then you go to work and live the reality.
The problem with working in the news business is you are inundated with “bad” stories nonstop for 8-10 hours each day. It’s like working in a medical profession. You are inundated with patients who are sick and struggling and hurting. Once in a while you get the “good” news: someone is healed, someone is overcoming, someone is going home cured.
You’ve probably gotten pretty good at tuning out the negative side. I know I did.
I was able to focus on the “good” sunshine weather and not really listen to the “bad” news I heard through the TV studio speakers.
During our current stay-at-home situation thanks to the coronavirus, many people are consuming news 24/7. It’s a lot, especially if you haven’t learned how to tune it out or turn it off or focus on other things. Too many are paralyzed with fear when it’s the only thing absorbed.
A few days ago a friend asked my advice on staying positive when so many “bad things” are happening around us. My answer came quickly and easily because I have given it a lot of thought in my career. It’s not just the current global pandemic we’re faced with now. “Bad things” happen in life all the time: cancer, death, sickness, divorce, pain, addiction, anxiety, depression, I could go on and on. Life isn’t happy and carefree all the time. You know that. I know that.
Because people only saw me on TV seemingly upbeat and “happy” they tended to assume I was always positive and always happy. Maybe your patients and co-workers feel the same about you. They need you to be upbeat and positive when you are delivering negative news about their health or wellbeing. Maybe you feel the pressure to pretend optimism. I did.
But I’m just like you. I can be rather negative, and I’m definitely not always happy.
Happiness is a choice.
Positivity is a choice.
Optimism is a choice.
Your mood and what you put out into the universe is a choice you make. I believe that with all my heart because I’ve lived it. It’s not something that comes naturally. We can’t control our circumstances. We can only control our reaction and response to circumstances.
You can’t control the way other people treat you. You can only control your response to it.
The most important lesson I’ve learned is to focus only on what is in my control.
When it comes to the coronavirus, I can control:
- Washing my hands & wearing a mask
- Sanitizing and disinfecting my home and work space
- Socially distancing myself and my family from others
- Taking breaks from the constant influx of news
The second part of that idea is to let go of what is not in my control.
When it comes to COVID-19, I cannot control:
- The response of my President, Congressmen, Senators or Governor
- Divisive and negative social media posts from my “friends”
- People not practicing social distancing
- The number of tests available
- People mixing up “opinion” with true journalism
If you worry about this list of things out of your control, it only adds to your anxiety and stress.
Focusing on things I actually can control, helps me feel more…. in control.
That helps me feel positive, more optimistic and ultimately, more happy.
I love the old adage about worry: “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.”
We are living in unprecedented times and many people are scared, but remember that most of what you read in the news is stuff you can’t control. Most of the patients you see probably have issues you can help, but not necessarily control.
Stop spending so much time and energy worrying about it! And stop spending so much time reading, listening, and soaking in things that may or may not be true. You have the advantage of reading actual medical news, facts, statistics. You see and understand things about viruses that others cannot. Stop reacting with negativity and anger. Let it go.
Focus on what you can do for yourself and your family (and your business and patients)..
Step away from the TV and the computer. Get the highlights. Stay informed. Then breathe… and live!
Since you already have to spend an elevated amount of time surrounded by COVID awareness, don’t spend more hours off-duty putting yourself in a heightened state of fear or panic.
Read for yourself. Get the news headlines. Listen to your state’s briefing. Catch the weather (of course!) and then step back. Turn it off. Stop worrying about those non-mask-wearers who aren’t doing their part. Stop sharing fake news stories that just add to the world’s fear and concern.
A friend reminded me recently that every situation (bad or good) has a beginning, middle and end. Healthy fear helps us prepare for a situation. Once we’ve done that, let go of the fear. If you don’t, it turns into anxiety, wastes your energy, and robs you of peace.
Make the choice to stay healthy and not live in fear.
Change your mindset. Choose to focus on what you can control. Let go of what you can’t.
Amy Sweezey recently retired from a 25-year broadcast meteorology career. She has authored 2 children's books about weather and created 2 weather workbooks for elementary students. Now she spends her time writing, blogging, and visiting schools. She is also a Project Producer and writer for Growing Bolder. Amy and her husband live in Central Florida with their 3 children.