Close Connections After 50: National depression

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By Nancy Norman

When someone comes to me to work on depression, I’m tempted to ask: Do you watch the news? Hardly a day goes by that someone I come in contact with doesn’t say, “I can’t stand what’s in the news. It’s so scary and depressing.”

While there are many personal things that contribute to depression, there’s a continuous feed of current events which can lead to what I’m calling “national depression” via explicit text and graphic pictures of frightening and out of control events.

We know that what we think about and focus on creates the feelings we experience. From years of studies, we’ve learned that when we think about beautiful, peaceful scenes, our blood pressure goes down, our heart rate decreases and a sense of well being increases. When we meditate, the same physical things happen. But in today’s society, we can hardly block out what’s put in front of us almost every minute of the day in the national news—on every device available. And yet we probably want to be informed. But do we have to let it affect us in a profoundly negative way that disrupts our everyday life and relationships?

For each of us, there is a sphere of influence. It is areas in which we can make things happen, can affect events, help things develop. Committees we’re on, close friends we share our lives with, a partner who needs lovin’, giving ourselves a special treat. We feel good and productive because we can do things that matter to us and we can see the results.

The sphere circles outward from intimate friends and family, to extended family and less frequently contacted friends, to acquaintances, to people who help us in stores or with services, to people we hear about, to people who run the country. As it circles outward, our influence typically diminishes. It’s important to know that when we are bombarded with information about what’s happening at the moment, our national scene is on the outer circle of our sphere of influence.

Here are some thoughts that might be helpful in making the national part of our depression less disruptive in our lives:

  • Know your sphere of influence. Where can you make a difference? Where are you listened to, cared about? Who’s in your sphere of influence with you, and who is not?
  • Maybe not start the day with visual news. Listening can be a little less upsetting. And above all, don’t watch news before trying to go to sleep. Most of us probably learned this the hard way.
  • If you’re watching something on visual media and feel yourself becoming alarmed or anxious or depressed, ask yourself if you can do anything about it at the moment. If not, plan for future action or get involved in something you can actually influence right now.
  • Watch something that makes you laugh before bedtime. “Frasier” is one of my favorites.

If all else fails (and this I say often), author Anne Lamott suggests a sigh and an “Oh well …” for those things we can’t control. It’s not defeat. It’s just the way it is.

Nancy Norman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, musician with The Storys duo and former “Intimacy” columnist with “The Wichita Eagle.” Email her at nancy@pikespeakpublishing.com.

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