News Is A Stress Test

According to the Mayo Clinic: “A stress test shows how the heart works during physical activity. It also may be called a stress exercise test. Exercise makes the heart pump harder and faster. A stress test can show problems with blood flow within the heart. A stress test usually involves walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike.”

Anything that forces you to interact with the unpredictable world beyond yourself easily becomes a stress test. A common way that people do this is by following the news.

Dealing with the news is a good test of your mental health because if you are not in reality, if you don’t know your limitations, if you are not clear about the things you cannot change and the things you can, then you’ll get upset by the news. There is no way to avoid feeling hurt by the news (if you are a Democrat, then Trump’s 2016 triumph must have hurt, and if you are a Republican, Joe Biden’s 2020 victory must have hurt), but feeling hurt and losing your mental health are two different things.

The way I consume news now (I subscribe to Apple News Plus, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal) is largely a pleasure. I enjoy the challenge (particularly of interpreting the news on my near daily livestreams) and I don’t see how it is hurting me. The news doesn’t consistently diminish my happiness, and I don’t lose friends or money over it. I don’t make bad decisions over it. I deal better with the news these days because my primary goal is understanding, not activism. If you have any other primary goal with regard to the news beyond understanding, you’ll get upset.

Prior to 2016 (and my entry into various 12-step programs and seminars), I would regularly get upset by the news because the world refused to conform to my expectations.

Live streaming is a stress test. If you regularly talk publicly for hours on controversial issues without self-harming, you are probably on solid psychic ground. You might argue, what about the social harm you could be creating? In my experience, if you harm others, they inevitably harm you. If there’s not significant pushback to your choices, you are not harming others. If you get out of touch with reality, in my experience, you get humiliated. If you are not experiencing regular humiliation, you are living in reality with an accurate understanding of your own relative importance as you navigate your day (sometimes in your day, you will be in charge, and at other times, you will take orders, and at other times you will cooperate).

Do you feel assaulted by the news? Here are some of the ways that I see people getting unhinged by the news:(1) They overestimate their ability to change the world. (2) They overestimate the importance of news. (3) They overestimate their ability to understand the news. (4) They are blind to the fictional reality of their hero system. (5) They are blind to their own limitations. (6) They rage against reality. When man and reality conflict, reality always wins. (7) They deepen their pathologies, such as feeling superior to or inferior to others, becoming hopeless and desperate, identifying too strongly with winners or losers in the news, getting their sense of importance from the news, and then feeling desperate to make the news (feeling as if they don’t count if they don’t get on TV). (8) They sell out who they are to gain respectability. (9) They damage what should be most precious to them by making impolitic reactions to the news. (10) They fail to wisely navigate between reactions #8 and #9. Feeling anxious, they either sell ourselves out to get along with others or they ignore the repercussions to their relationships by following their heart.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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