Root Complaint: Anxiety
In recent months primary care physicians have noticed a substantial uptick in the number of visits that have anxiety at their root. The chief complaint varies, sometimes it’s insomnia, or irritability, heartburn, headaches, or sometimes just a frank “I feel more anxious.”
No matter your political leanings, the last several months have been hard. No one seems to be happy with the state of the world and some people are feeling deeply unsettled.
Self-care: Care that Matters Most of All
Self-care is critical when the world is topsy-turvy. The basics are essential and well known: sleep, eat well, exercise, spend time with people you love and tell them you love them. But what is there to do when that isn’t enough, which is the heart of what is bringing more and more people to their health care professionals because old problems are worsening and new difficulties are blossoming?
Spend a moment and identify all the different ways you hear about the news. Do you watch news TV, listen to news radio, have news items pop up on your social media feed, read newspapers or magazines, listen to news podcasts or have a family member who needs to tell you about every new development in current politics? How much time do you spend each day being exposed to these sources of media? Once you are aware of what your avenues of media exposure are and take a good look at how much media you are consuming on a daily basis cut it in half – at a minimum.
A common prescription for a media diet might look like this:
- Less than 1 hour TV news per week.
- Only check online news/social media twice daily for no more than 10 minutes per day.
- Insist on a “politics free” household for family gatherings, to include meals.
- Skim print media, limit reading to 10 minutes daily.
- Absolutely no politics, no screens, nothing more exciting than a book for the last hour before bed.
Decreasing Exposure Increases Impact
For many patients, decreasing the frequency of exposure is the most impactful, as well as not making politics the basis for social interactions. Following a media diet allows us all to stay engaged and informed without letting it take over our lives.
Dr. Alethea Fleming, ND is a passionate advocate for naturopathic geriatric medicine. A 2007 Bastyr University graduate, she also earned a certificate in Gerontology from the University of Washington. Dr. Fleming is the owner and lead physician of the Vital Aging Clinic in Anacortes, Washington where she provides primary care to all adults as well as adjunctive geriatric care. Dr. Fleming is active in multiple community organizations as well as a member of WANP, AANP and OncANP. In her off hours, Dr. Fleming can be found hiking the beautiful trails of Fidalgo Island, spending time with her wonderful husband and son, or with her nose firmly in a good book.