Modern life is hectic and we are all searching for ways to decompress. Watching a few episodes of something, mindless Instagram scrolling or reading the news online are things we commonly turn to to wind down at the end of the day. But is your “switching off” switching on your stress response?
Rather than suggesting that we get rid of screens altogether, I’m proposing that we consider what we watch and listen to the same as any other thing we consume. What are we putting into our systems with our media diet and what health impacts does it have? Are you having too many donuts and not enough broccoli?
How does what I watch cause Stress?
Podcasts and television programs need to compete for our attention. The tension, drama and ultimate resolution are all designed to release endorphins that will keep us coming back for more. Without realising, we tend to choose stressful programs. Crime and horror are obvious culprits, but even competitive reality shows promote stress. The yelling, conflict and time limits all create tension. However stress is stress. Our body’s primitive circuitry doesn’t differentiate between a real life threat and a manufactured one on television. So while we’re “winding down” we might actually be winding up our nervous system.
The impacts of Stress on your Health
Being more conscious of your viewing and listening habits is particularly important if you tend to mental health challenges like anxiety or depression. If you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, stress management is an essential part of your natal care. I encourage all pregnant women to be conscious of their viewing choices to avoid inadvertently adding to their stress levels.
“The mother should not engage in strenuous activities. Her sleeping place must be peaceful and quiet and she must not be exposed to fear and alarm.”Sun Simiao
Qian Jin Fang 652 BCE
Stress and an agitated nervous system impact on every aspect of your health; fertility, sleep, digestion, immunity and energy can all be improved by reducing stress. Everyone can benefit from a calmer nervous system, and we can all learn to be more discerning about the media we’re consuming. If just a few nights a week you read a book, had a bath or went to bed early, imagine how much more relaxed your week would be ☺️