Is Watching TV a Good Way to Manage Stress?
These days, some of us just want to grab the TV remote and get lost in Ross and Rachel's antics on old Friends reruns so we can escape any coronavirus anxiety we may be feeling. Turns out that tuning in to TV is actually a common stress management tool for women.
A survey of over 3,000 women conducted by HealthyWomen, Prevention magazine, and health care communications agency GCI Health in 2019 found that watching TV is one of the top three ways women cope with stress. "TVs are an easy option," says C. Vaile Wright, Ph.D., Director, Research and Special Projects, at the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C. "Most of us have them. It's a way to escape and distract yourself. And they're easily accessible and convenient. It's often a go-to for people."
And according to Dr. Wright, it's a good stress management tool. "We're wearing ourselves down," says Dr. Wright. Recent research says that vegging in front of the tube can help manage some people's moods. "TV is a way you can decompress and fill your tank back up," she says. "It can be mindless and entertaining. It can evoke the emotions that make you feel better."
TV can play a productive role in your stress management. Still, you need to make smart choices about your TV-watching habits. Here are some TV watching dos and don'ts.
DO: Get physical while you watch.
TV watching is a passive activity; aim to make it an active one. "Where it gets a bad rap is that it can have a tendency to interfere with things that people need to do for self-care," Dr. Wright says. That means don't just sit there while you take in your favorite show. Walk around during commercials or do some sit-ups while you watch, she says.
DON'T: Binge—shows, food and drinks.
Watch TV in moderation. That means not staying up until midnight so you can binge "just one more" Tiger King episode. Otherwise, you're interfering with your sleep.
While we watch, we often eat—mindlessly. Suddenly, we've finished a whole bag of potato chips. Dr. Wright says that snack workarounds include putting food in a bowl to promote portion control. And munching on something healthy like fruit.
You also want to make sure you don't overdo it on alcohol while you watch TV. A glass of wine is ok—not a whole bottle. "It can have the potential to turn into a lack of mindful drinking," says Dr. Wright. "Be aware of the behaviors you're engaging in while you're watching TV."
DON'T: Become anti-social.
If you want to pass on a family zoom meeting to watch a show, that's okay. "But you shouldn't avoid connecting by using TV as a crutch," says Dr. Wright. Instead, host a TV viewing party. Or Facetime with a friend while watching a show together, says Dr. Wright.
DO: Monitor what you're watching.
If the news or a horror flick interferes with your sleep, don't watch those programs before you go to bed. For some people, these shows are fine. Others have the tendency to keep thinking about what they just watched; so, they can't go to or stay asleep. "Pay attention and listen to your body," says Dr. Weight.
Remember: Stress management is important for your body inside and out. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible and vulnerable to weight gain, colds, sleep issues, high blood pressure, cardiac issues and more. If TV is a way for you to de-stress, keep the above tips in mind, and enjoy!
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