Tough times make finding an escape difficult but essential

by Richard S. Winer, M.D. | Current Events

As more of my patients tell me about how the current economic times are affecting them them, it is as if media reports are adding insult to injury. Various outlets regularly put forth reports outlining all of the country’s financial woes, how they came about, and how they could either continue or be eased in the coming months.

For years, the primary source of such information was either the business section of a local newspaper or one of the financially-focused newspapers and magazines like The Wall Street Journal or Business Week. The “old” news cycle allowed a certain lag time between when events happened and when they would run in print media. Not so, anymore.

We live in an age of instantaneous media that are continually updated throughout the day as events happen. The days of waiting for the newspaper to be delivered are behind us. Instead, you can watch the seemingly countless cable outlets such as 24-hour news networks like CNN, Fox News and MSNBC or business-focused channels like CNBC and Bloomberg. But turning off your television doesn’t guarantee an escape.

With online and mobile media on the rise, it can be nearly impossible to avoid the news of the day. Not in the mood for MSNBC? They’re online. Need a break from Anderson Cooper? He’s on Facebook. Is The Wall Street Journal causing you stress? It’s on Twitter. Not only do you see the effects of the economy in your daily life, but with cell phones and other handheld electronics, the news can follow you wherever you go.  The New York Times motto may be “All the news that’s fit to print,” but many patients feel they are being bombarded with all the news that makes them fit to be tied.

The newspaper industry is indeed in its own crisis, unlike any in my lifetime. Papers around the country are shrinking, if not disappearing, largely because of declining ad revenue and print readership. And it’s no wonder. More and more patients have told me that they are now limiting their exposure to the anxiety-provoking news about world events, economic and otherwise, simply because it’s too depressing.

For some, they feel that ignorance is bliss. If things really are that bad, they would sooner not know. Others would rather not listen to the deliverers of gloom and doom and just go on doing their best to make ends meet.

Many patients are just delighted to talk about something else for a change, whether it’s an NBA Game 7 or the American Idol finale, the latest DVD they’ve rented or the new Star Trek movie. Any opportunity to get away from negative news without spending a proverbial arm and a leg serves as an escape from the harsh realities of the day-to-day world. I’m not immune to it either.

A glance around my office and patients find evidence of my interest in sports and the work I have done as a statistician for TV and radio announcers at NFL and college football games, NCAA basketball and NHL games. Having worked at Super Bowls and NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament games, I understand the value of such rare escapes and the joy of sharing that with others.

Right now, we all need that kind of balance, to find ways to have fun and enjoy the aspects of our lives outside of work. That is what will keep us going as we make our way through these challenging days.

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