I remember a time several years ago when I was feeling particularly stressed at work. There was a special project my team was working on for a few weeks, and we were expected to work until 11 o’clock every night and return by 7 the next morning. 

The company was located in midtown Manhattan, and my apartment was on the other side of the Hudson River in New Jersey. It wasn’t a bad commute, but I felt uneasy facing the characters of the evening while getting across town.

While traveling on the bus I would try to keep up with the news of the day by reading whatever newspaper I could get my hands on. 

I remember one night, as I was reading about an ongoing murder investigation, I began feeling flushed. I knew it wasn’t a hot flash because I was still in my twenties. Why did my face feel like it was on fire?

Then I happened to read some advice Dr. Andrew Weil told a reader about the importance of taking a ”news fast.”  He said that taking a break from the news was good for your health.  

“A news fast simply means opting out of watching the news on television, listening to it on the radio, reading newspapers, or following the news on the Internet for a few days or even a week at a time.  I believe that taking periodic breaks from the news can promote mental calm and help renew your spirits. In this way, the anxiety and over-stimulation catalyzed by the media may be minimized, and your body will function better.” ~Dr. Andrew Weil

It seemed plausible that the cause of my flushes were from the combination of stress and the news. Now the good doctor was giving me permission to take a newsbreak. 

At first it was hard to take a break. I felt guilty because I knew horrible things were happening to people who had no control over their circumstances, yet I could choose to step away from reading a paper or watching TV. It didn’t seem right.

My parents were big readers, and they brought me up to do the same. Beginning a news fasts felt uncomfortable, and I felt disconnected from the world.

Now I practice it whenever I need to. As a boomer I know the importance of taking care of our physical and emotional health. Stepping away from the violence and horrors happening around us, for even a day, will not make us a bad person.  

Gaza. ISIS. Robin Williams. James Foley. Hamas. Ferguson. Ebola. Murdered boys. Kidnapped girls. Need I say more? 

We’ve been more than inundated with unimaginable news lately, and the violence and horror occurring around us enters our subconscious. We dream violence. We feel unsafe. We feel helpless. Does that affect our health?

According to an article in The Guardian, news can be “toxic” to our bodies. Stories’ creating panic release cortisol into our system that, in turn, puts our bodies in a “state of chronic stress.” Bad news can also create fear and aggression. 

NOTE: The author of The Guardian article, Rolf Dobelli, reported that he went on a news fast for 4 years so, “I can see, feel and report the effects of this freedom first-hand: less disruption, less anxiety, deeper thinking, more time, more insights. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.”

So next time you’re feeling anxious after watching or reading the news, consider stepping away from it for a short while. Remember that taking care of your health is the most important thing you can do for yourself. 

Cathy Chester blogs at An Empowered Spirit, which won third prize in Healthline’s Best Health Blog Contest in 2014, was named #2 of the “Top 10 Social HealthMakers in MS” by Sharecare “ and received a nomination for the past 3 years as WEGO Health’s Best in Show Blog. She is a contributor for The Huffington Post as well as a blogger for MultipleSclerosis.net and Boomeon. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Midlife Boulevard, BetterAfter50, Erma Bombecks’ Writers Circle, The Friendship Circle and Woman at Woodstock.