Take Control - Take a Break from the News.

  • By Michael Ceely
  • 22 Jan, 2017

Reduce stress with "news fasting."

Politics! News! Stress! Ruminating about these uncertain times, I remembered some advice I heard a few years ago from Dr. Andrew Weil. He said, "stop watching the news."

Wait, what? We have to watch the news - to stay informed - right? No. You have the right NOT to subject yourself to the news. The media rarely reports all the good things happening in world. They like to dish out the bad news, and we become addicted, compelled to watch.

Dr. Weil says: "A number of studies have shown that images and reports of violence, death and disaster can promote undesirable changes in mood and aggravate anxiety, sadness and depression."

His advice? Take a news fast. That's right. Detox your mind by cutting out the "mental junk food." Try it for a few days and notice your mood, and notice how you interact with others. You'll likely feel better, mentally and physically.

So turn off that TV, hide your news app on your phone, and don't click on that Facebook news story. Don't worry, if anything important happens, you'll hear about it.

Now, I'm not saying bury your head in the sand and become apathetic. Just try the fast and see how you feel. Maybe notice the compulsion to check the news. Do you really need to? The idea is to notice that you don't always need to. 

Can you incorporate periodic news fasts into your life? Why not try it. Remember, what you feed your body and your mind affects you. Give yourself a break. Try a news fast today!

Michael Ceely is a licensed psychotherapist in Berkeley, CA. He enjoys helping individual adults, teenagers and athletes rediscover their personal power to achieve positive results in their lives.


To learn more about his counseling services, visit Ceely Counseling or go to his sport performance site, Ceely Sports.

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Recent Posts

By Michael Ceely 01 Jan, 2018
Happy New Year! Many of you are thinking about setting goals for 2018. It's so easy to think about goals for the new year without first giving yourself credit for your achievements in 2017. 

Try this powerful exercise: write down every positive thing, every personal victory from the past year, no matter how small. Did you show up for work and earn money? As basic as that may sound, write it down. Did you help a friend when they needed you? Write it down.

As you begin to write your list, an interesting thing happens. You begin to notice that some of the normal, expected things you do are in fact not-so-easy accomplishments. 

To have a job, to help out your fellow human, to be a kind person... these may seem basic, but give yourself credit! It's easy to be self-critical and say, "next year I'm REALLY going to achieve something significant." You can fall into the trap of discounting all your accomplishments of the last year, and thus put undue pressure on yourself for the new year. 
By Michael Ceely 11 Nov, 2017

Allow me to introduce my friend and colleague Jeremi McManus, of SF Relationship Coaching & Psychotherapy in San Francisco. Jeremi is a Relationship Therapist, Couples Therapist and Author who works with people who want more fulfilling and satisfying relationships.

In this guest blog post, Jeremi shares some solid techniques on how to reduce arguments and cultivate calmness in your relationships.

One Way to Reduce Fights with Your Spouse and Loved Ones

by Jeremi McManus

Sure, I’m a relationship and couples therapist, but I am certainly not immune to arguments and disagreements with people close to me. Wife, friends, family. You name it. In fact, having a fight, getting through it, then still being close after is a sign  to me of a close relationship. And all relationships are going to have arguments at times. If you don’t think so, let me burst that bubble for you right.. now.

Before I share with you one of my favorite things to do when an argument does start, let’s talk a little about your nervous system. It’s governed by the part of the brain called the amygdala and is just chilling most of the time. But when we experience threat it takes over. It takes over by flooding the body with stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and puts us either into fight or flight mode (occasionally into freeze).

Which is a great response… if we are facing a lion. Or if there is some other genuine threat in front of us that we need to physically fight against or run away from.

By Michael Ceely 29 Oct, 2017

When we hear the word brainwashing, we usually imagine something negative that some evil hypnotist does to us. Well, I'm here to tell you that you can brainwash YOURSELF… in a positive way.

Back in January of this year, after the presidential inauguration, my friends on social media unleashed a barrage of negativity and hopelessness. Some people offered insightful solutions, but most just complained.

I also noticed that the news was mirroring my social media feed. Negativity. Despair. Fear. Soon, every single day was filled with stress.

So… I took a bold step. I stopped watching the news. No more Crisis News Network (CNN), no more diatribes from “personalities” on Fox News or MSNBC. Check out my previous blog post where I talk about “news fasting."

By Michael Ceely 09 May, 2017
In my previous blog post, I talked about the incredible amount of time adolescents spend on electronic devices each day.

After reading the post, a friend of mine told me about a recent 60 Minutes special entitled Brain Hacking. That's right, engineers are programming our phone apps based on the brain’s natural tendency to seek pleasure.

This is a powerful and sobering report that I think everyone should see. The folks that build some of these apps may not have your best interests in mind. Check out the 60 Minutes Report here.

In the report, Tristan Harris, a former Google product manager, explains how Snapchat's features are designed to be addictive. A feature called "Streaks" shows the number of days in a row kids send messages to each other. Kids get stressed about losing their Streak or competing with their peers over who has the highest number of days. 

Harris reminds the viewer that the primary goal of companies like Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, etc. is to get you to use their product as much as possible. There is a battle for our attention going on.

In this battle, I'm hoping that parents and teachers decide to get involved. For example, teachers can bring in guest speakers (preferably teens) to talk about healthy social media use. Parents can set family policies around the use of social media apps.

Together, we can outsmart the Silicon Valley engineers. If you are a parent of a teenager, and you already monitor and limit social media use, good for you. If you need to get more involved, now is the time. 
By Michael Ceely 10 Apr, 2017

Parents, how much screen time do most adolescents have each day? Are you ready for this? According to a study by Common Sense Media, The average is 6 to 9 hours a day interacting with a screen. That’s a TV screen, cell phone, computer, tablet, etc. Does that amount of time alarm you? It should.

Sherry Turkle, a psychologist at MIT, who studies the effects of social media and electronic communication, points out that excessive screen time can have negative effects on attention span and social development. She has a great TED Talk about this called Connected, but Alone.

Because the teenage years are a crucial formative time, brain development is highly influenced by the environment. Habits become ingrained. Checking phones and multitasking can get "hardwired" into the adolescent brain. Focusing on one thing – face-to-face conversations, family dinners, etc. – becomes boring and uncomfortable.

In my work with teenagers, they'll often bring up conflictual conversations with peers. I have to remind myself that some of their "conversations" are taking place through hours of texting! Without face-to-face interaction, all nonverbal social cues are removed. This leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding.

Parents also tell me that they are frustrated by their teenager’s texting or gaming habits. Their kids are sleep deprived, and their grades are dropping. But when parents try to limit screen time, they tell me their kids angrily protest. They feel like a bad parent.

The biggest mistake parents make when limiting screen time is not explaining the rationale. By snatching away a phone or video game without a reason, the teen views the punishment as a power struggle without any deeper meaning.

By sitting down and having a conversation and saying "I'm concerned about your screen time" the teen feels respected. Their opinion counts. They may protest when you propose limiting screen time, but that's okay. Be firm and insist. Some negotiation is okay. Remember, the goal is to reduce screen time to a sensible amount.

What’s a sensible amount? That's up to you as a parent to decide. Generally speaking, screen time should not interfere with eating, sleeping, homework, household chores, and family interactions.

Make a household rule that no devices are allowed during family meals. Other strategies include putting all devices away for the night in a common household cabinet. Restricting your teenager's screen time may actually help you reduce your own electronic device usage.

Teens, if you’re reading this, I’m on your side, really! I have talked to many teenagers who at first hate reducing screen time. They feel left out of their friends’ texts, Snapchats and Instagrams. But after a while, they notice they have more time to do homework, get more sleep, and feel less stressed overall.

So the key is moderation. Sensible screen time, not addiction. Use the device, don’t let it use you. Parents, you must set the example. Teens, trust that your parents care about you. For both of you: continue to have conversations. Listen to each other’s point of view. You might just see eye to eye.

For more on teenagers and screen time, check out the movie that inspired this blog post, Screenagers.

By Michael Ceely 07 Mar, 2017

Cindy, age 15, says to her mom, "I'm going over to Lisa's house after school, okay? Cindy's mom then asks, "Um... wait a second, who is Lisa?”
"She's in my algebra class... she’s cool, don't worry so much, mom."

If you are a parent, what would you say next? Who is this friend Lisa? What you say next depends on a number of things of course, including how trustworthy Cindy is, what time she'll be home, etc.

But a more important question arises: how well do you know your teenager's friends? 

You may feel reluctant to find out more about your kid’s friends. You don't want to be one of those hovering, "helicopter parents" who never trusts your kid. At the same time, you want to know if your child's peers are a good influence.

Just because your son or daughter gets good grades and is responsible, doesn't mean they can't be swayed by peer pressure to skip class or do drugs. During the adolescent years, social acceptance plays a major role in teens’ decision making.

So why not get to know your kid’s friends? The worst that could happen might be some eye rolling or awkwardness.  

I don't mean getting over-involved in your son or daughter's social life. I mean knowing their peers’ basic habits, first and last names, and who their parents are. That means actually meeting your child’s friends, and at the very least, introducing yourself to their friends’ parents via phone. 

Your teenager may protest, and even accuse you of not trusting them. Stand firm. Your request is not unreasonable. Your kid may be mad at you, but deep down they'll respect you. A teenager needs certainty, and knowing that their parent has their back puts them at ease. 

Of course, you can involve yourself even further by meeting other parents in person, attending a parent teacher association meeting, or hosting a sleepover.

Remember, the idea is not to pry into all the details of your teen’s social life. The idea is to assert your basic role as parent and know who your son or daughter is spending time with.

Knowing your kid’s friends helps everybody. It helps you, because you'll know if a peer is a good or bad influence. It helps other parents by creating a responsive network. And most of all, it sends a message to your son or daughter that you care.

By Michael Ceely 22 Jan, 2017
Politics! News! Stress! Ruminating about these uncertain times, I remembered some advice I heard a few years ago from Dr. Andrew Weil. He said, "stop watching the news."

Wait, what? We have to watch the news - to stay informed - right? No. You have the right NOT to subject yourself to the news. The media rarely reports all the good things happening in world. They like to dish out the bad news, and we become addicted, compelled to watch.

Dr. Weil says: "A number of studies have shown that images and reports of violence, death and disaster can promote undesirable changes in mood and aggravate anxiety, sadness and depression."

His advice? Take a news fast. That's right. Detox your mind by cutting out the "mental junk food." Try it for a few days and notice your mood, and notice how you interact with others. You'll likely feel better, mentally and physically.

So turn off that TV, hide your news app on your phone, and don't click on that Facebook news story. Don't worry, if anything important happens, you'll hear about it.

Now, I'm not saying bury your head in the sand and become apathetic. Just try the fast and see how you feel. Maybe notice the compulsion to check the news. Do you really need to? The idea is to notice that you don't always need to. 

Can you incorporate periodic news fasts into your life? Why not try it. Remember, what you feed your body and your mind affects you. Give yourself a break. Try a news fast today!

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