Catastrophe for Breakfast

It’s tough being a news junkie. After social media, there are few aspects of modern life that can wreck havoc on your mental and emotional well-being than a daily (hourly?) diet of news headlines.

Trained as a journalist, I felt it was my civic and social responsibility to know what the hell was going on. Back in the day, I dutifully read at least two local newspapers every morning over breakfast. I would grumble the necessary, predictable grumbles, toss the newspaper into the kindling pile for the fireplace, and would go about my day.

The Internet has given us unprecedented access to the latest news from sources all over the world, 24 hours a day. With that has come the gloaming of social media, and its toxic sludge of running commentary in reaction to the news.

If you ever wished for a the superpower of mind-reading, congratulations. Your wish has come true via social media. Happy now?

I’ve also noticed the headlines have gotten more hysterical. Not as in “oh, ha ha, that’s hysterical!” but in the true meaning of the word “hysteria.”

Fires don’t spread anymore; they explode.

Crowds aren’t angry; they’re outraged.

No matter how narrow a defeat in an election; it’s a landslide.

My morning scan of news headlines has turned into a morning catastrophe report.

Make no mistake, things look damn dire from any angle. I am the last person who would entertain any form of toxic pollyanna optimism. Resting bitch face is my default.

I take it a few steps further, and add my own narrative, playing out worst-case scenarios to their epic conclusions. It’s hard to believe I could somehow make a news headline worse, but somehow I have honed a talent for it.

Catastrophizing is my superpower.

How do I survive this barrage of bad news and continue to function as a member of society?

First, tackle the headlines and my reaction to them head-on with steely determination. Ignoring them in favor of vapid cat videos is not an option. Monitoring the news, even at the 10,000 foot level, is a digital form of situational awareness. You see patterns, catch trends, notice threads. Insights and prescience are just a result of paying attention.

Second, allow my mind to wander to the worst case scenario. Then take it a few steps beyond to an absurd level.

Third, laugh at the futility of worry, and at my own rampant imagination that inclines toward darkness.

There are so many catastrophes to pick from, like ice cream flavors!

What are you obsessing over? What darkens your thoughts?

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