Remember the term “Think Global. Act Local.” It was coined by Scottish social activist and town planner, and revived by environmental groups decades later. It definitely got my generation thinking about the impact of our actions on the world around us. Which is a very good thing. But too much of a good thing can be bad.
I want to introduce a slight change to that phrase and encourage you to “Think Local. Act Local.”
And even though life is evolving and changing quickly – your nervous system isn’t. You’ve got the same complex, beautifully designed wiring as your ancestors. But your world is totally different.
“A single Sunday edition of the New York Times today contains more information than typical 19th-century citizens faced in their entire lifetime.” state the authors of a 2014 study in the journal Computer in Human Behavior.
Even if you never read the paper, you are being bombarded by news from all around the world constantly – wars, floods, drought, fires, shootings, uprisings, oppression, and extinctions. It fills your social media feed, radio, tv and more.
And frankly my dear, your nervous system isn’t designed to handle it all. You are exquisitely designed to connect with people, overcome challenges, sense danger and respond appropriately. But when you’re exposed to thousands, and even millions, of other people’s lives, and situations beyond your influence or control, your system becomes overwhelmed.
You see tragedies whirring by – you click, maybe you donate, and you scroll on. You feel bad for a moment, then perhaps a bit of relief by replying, donating, or sharing a post.
You may look fine from the outside, but inside it’s a different story. Your nervous system gets activated, ready to fight or flee, but can’t physically act in the way it’s designed to do. You go about your day, but the effects linger inside you. Whether you’re aware of them or not.
When this happens you can experience all sorts of unpleasant symptoms…irritability, trouble sleeping, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, trouble focusing, indecisiveness, impulsivity, reduce work efficiency. It will also lead to reduced ability to properly weigh and interpret information. And if you want make sense of the world, that ability is vitally important these days.
So when it comes to being bombarded by news, being a little less informed may actually help you make better decisions. You’ll be less stressed, better rested, more efficient, better able to connect with others, and able to understand and interpret information. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make informed decisions! It’s just that you’re probably getting too much.
Some stories are so compelling you can’t stop watching, you need to stay up to date, but unless the information is enabling you to act right now to save yourself or others, you’re better off turning it off and doing something nourishing, restful, productive, life affirming in some way. You’ll be more resilient and able to handle challenges in your own life when they happen – and they will.
A study out of UC Irvine reported that people who watched 6 hours of coverage daily of the Boston Marathon for the week after the event, were more likely to have higher levels of acute stress than those who were at the event or near it. Hopefully that’s enough proof to get you to stop watching, scrolling, and getting sucked in.
You may think you’d never watch 6 hours of coverage a day of a tragedy, but it doesn’t have to be that much time to still have an impact. And it doesn’t’ have to just be one event. If you’re seeing multiple tragedies and sad stories daily, you’re creating excess stress you really don’t need.
So what do you instead of spending so much time “thinking globally”?
I want to hear your ideas, and I’ll share some of my own in my next installment.