Sunday, 18 June 2017

Reading is bad for you...

Reading gives me solace when I'm upset and adds to my joy when I'm happy but there are times when I must admit that reading probably does more harm than good. Well it's not reading itself that's the problem; it's what I am reading.

I suffer from anxiety, which most of the time is like having a very mild case of tinnitus - I am aware of anxious thoughts and feelings, but I am usually able to ignore them. However, sometimes, my anxiety dominates and I find it very difficult to focus on anything else. On these occasions, my instinct is to Google "answers" to whatever it is I am fretting about. This I've learnt is absolutely the worse thing I can do. If there was a definite answer to the thing I was anxious about, I wouldn't be anxious about it. For example, I may not be happy about the fact that tomorrow's Monday (obvs, I am writing this on a Sunday) and may even be anxious about what may happen tomorrow but I am not anxious that it may be Monday tomorrow because I know it is Monday tomorrow. The point is I am not going to find a solution via Google (assuming I haven't searched for "how to deal with anxious thoughts" etc.).

In fact, rather than finding answers, I find more reasons to be anxious - I typically manage to come across all of the blog posts/articles that have been written by people who have similar anxious thoughts to me (humbling in a way; our irrational thoughts are rarely unique to us). Even if I come across something factual, I still tend to interpret it as "confirmation" of my worse fears. Anxiety is very manipulative in that way; your thinking is skewed, so you're not capable of logically reviewing information. Therefore, I am slowly learning to stay away from Google when I am having an attack of anxiety; I also, if my anxiety is related to national or international events, avoid reading the news.

As well as avoiding the news when I am anxious, I try to limit my exposure to the news to prevent myself from becoming anxious. The news, particularly of late, always seems to be filled with stories of horrific events. Therefore, for the sake of my sanity, I try to avoid reading/watching the news in the evenings or on the weekends. If something terrible has happened, me knowing or not knowing about it will make no difference - it will still have happened when I do decide to engage with the news again. Keeping up to date with the news is obviously important but sometimes it's equally important to switch off.

Another benefit to "switching off" is that when you do decide to look at the news, you're more likely to get the full facts. On the night of the awful London Bridge/Borough Market attack, I made the decision to turn off my phone and go to bed rather than, as I had done with the Paris attacks, read about things in real time on Twitter. No good, I thought, could come of me reading people's speculations about what was happening. And as I live in East London, miles away from London Bridge, I wasn't able to offer any assistance to those caught up in the attack. The next day, I made an effort to find out what had happened (when by that time, the basic facts had been established) and make sure my London friends were safe (they were). Me waiting a while to learn about the attack didn't, of course,  make it any less horrific but I was at least more able to deal with the news.

OK, so the title of this post really should have been "some reading" is bad for you. But, that wouldn't be as clickbaity would it? Reading, like a lot of things, is neither good nor bad. It's what you read and what you're feeling at the time that's important. Sometimes, it's better to take a break from the world outside,

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