Netflix is Bad for Your Mental Health

To save your mental health, reconsider your Netflix subscription. A new “true crime” Netflix show is, unfortunately, very popular. And the Netflix recommendation engine will relentlessly promote their most popular shows. If you give in and watch an episode, your mental health will worsen.

Dark and unpleasant content affects everyone, but those who have suffered trauma are affected most. Fictional crime is bad enough, but “true crime” is based on things that actually happened. That makes these shows even harder to shake off.

The painful problem is that most people with traumatic experiences from long ago think that time has healed them. It doesn’t. Time allows the brain to push the memory into the background, but the body still remembers. That’s why some things hit you surprisingly hard. Stay away from “true crime.”

Pay Attention to What Your Body Tells You

Your body knows what is bothering you, even if your conscious mind doesn’t. I am reading Bruce Perry’s book “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog,” and he explains how he discovered a way to detect past trauma still stuck in the body: With a heart rate monitor.

A child wanted to try the heart rate monitor Bruce was still wearing after a run. He put in on the boy and the heart rate was normal. But then Bruce said something that caused the boy’s heart rate to increase dramatically. He later discovered that his words had triggered a memory of past trauma in the boy.

If you have an Apple Watch or a similar device that measures your pulse, pay attention to the data it gives you. You might discover that a specific task or an upcoming event with certain people sets your heart racing. That tells you that you have something you need to work on. While you do that, also try to reduce this kind of stress-inducing activity. Maybe someone else can do the task, or you don’t need to go to that meeting. I’m not a big gadget fan, but here is a place where a device can actually be helpful.

Experiment on Yourself

Many people run science experiments on themselves. You should, too. I’m not talking about taking strange drugs you got from the internet. I am talking about making changes to your diet and tracking the outcome.

Science has shown that improved diet can have as much effect as the latest drugs from the pharmacy. This applies to everything from minor pain to serious depression. If you wish to improve your life, try an experiment.

The scientific method consists of establishing a baseline, making one change, and registering the result. For your own science, I recommend keeping a journal on paper or on your device. For one week, write down how you feel. That is your baseline – the point you compare to. Then make a simple diet change. You already know what a better diet looks like. For example, you can replace an unhealthy snack with nuts and raisins. Continue writing down how you feel. After a few weeks, examine your notes and see if you feel better than the baseline before you made the change. If you do, great! Keep the change. If you don’t feel any improvement, that doesn’t mean the experiment failed. It means the experiment was successful and you proved that this change was not right for you. Make another change and repeat the experiment.

A safe experiment is one where you change your diet, sleep, or lifestyle. Even if you feel much better, you DO NOT change any medication by yourself. Make some safe changes to your life. Your surprised doctor might then change your medication 😉

Be Prepared

What would happen if you lost your purse? Or your car breaks down while you’re driving? If you tend towards anxiety, as many bullying victims do, you can spend a lot of time worrying about things that might happen.

Fortunately, there is an antidote to this kind of worrying. Whenever you feel anxiety about some possible event, make a note of it. Later, when you are feeling calm and in a familiar and safe environment, take out your note and think about what you would do if that situation happened.  If you lost your purse, there would be credit cards to cancel, and you might need to get a replacement driver’s license. Find out in advance exactly what you would need to do. Find the phone numbers you need to call or the websites you need to visit. Store that information in several places – on your phone, on paper, on your computer.

When you have thought a situation through in advance and know exactly what to do, the anxiety is much lessened. Often, you’ll that you completely stop thinking about the situation that worried you.

Write a Journal

Are you writing a journal? It has known for centuries that journaling helps you deal with the questions and anxieties you are facing. Many great people through the ages have said that journaling was the most important way for them to handle the pressures of life and improve themselves.

For someone suffering from anxiety, the most important benefit of journaling is that when you write your worries down, some of the energy drains out of them. Negative thoughts about things you have written down will appear less or might completely disappear.

You can journal on your computer, on a mobile device or in a paper notebook. Try it and you will find it improves your life.

Practice Media Self Defense

2021 is starting well with more and more people receiving one of the Covid vaccinations. But notice what your media is focusing on: Some rollouts don’t go as fast as planned. Some places faces shortages. One in a million get an allergic reaction to one of the vaccines.

It is obvious that even in the face of a positive trend, the negative messages gets priority. That affects your mental health. Especially if you suffer from anxiety or low self-esteem.

In 2021, you need to practice mental self defense. Every time you are tempted to click on a negative headline, pause for one long slow breath. You will find that most of the time, you don’t need to read that article. Every time you succeed in not clicking, you are winning.

Listen to the Forest

Walking in nature and hearing the sounds of the leaves rustling and the birds singing is good for your health. It strengthens your immune system and decreases feelings of anxiety and depression.

If you don’t have a forest nearby, the next best thing is to take a walk wherever you are while listening to the sounds of the forest. Volunteers all over the world have recorded the sounds of their local forests, so even if you are walking in a mundane suburb, you can still have the sounds of the Sebangua Nature Park on Borneo in your ears. Walk, listen, and dream of the time when we can again roam the world.

See a world map full of woodland sounds here:


Preparation Beats Anxiety

Some of my American friends are bracing for an oncoming snowstorm while I am sitting in the rain in Denmark hoping for a bit of snow.

The weather affects us all, but for some people, it’s yet another thing to worry about. Many of my clients are victims of bullying and other trauma, and if you have that history, you are likely to feel more anxious about the future than most.

One technique that works well to combat anxiety about specific possible events, like power outages, is to think them through in advance. How will you get light if you don’t have electricity? You might stock up on candles, batteries, and flashlights. How will you heat your house? Maybe you have a gas heater and a filled tank. Maybe you can close off parts of the house and heat only that. Specific plans beat general anxiety.

Follow the Rules

Even as the vaccines are starting to become available, the lockdown has tightened here in Denmark, in California, and in many other places. Some people criticize and resist the restrictions, but you should welcome them.

People suffering from anxiety, as bullying victims and other trauma sufferers often do, benefit from clear guidelines. Anxiety is worsened by unclear situations where you can worry about what the right response is. But in this case, you can simply find out what your local restrictions and rules are, and follow them. This allows you to tell yourself that you have done your part. When there is nothing more you can do, it is easier to let go of your personal worries about coronavirus.

In my book “Life after Bullying,” I describe an exercise using tapping to reduce anxiety. There is a guided meditation on the resource page for the book – look for “Chapter 10: Tapping for Anxiety” on https://www.lifeafterbullying.com/resources/

Reserve Time for Yourself

If you are not feeling cheerful as we get closer to Christmas, that’s OK. We are bombarded with an idealized image of a happy family celebrating in a decorated and cozy home, but that is not the reality for many people. Bullying victims and others who have suffered psychological trauma can suffer from anxiety that is worsened by external pressure as you might feel in December.

Make sure you reserve enough time for yourself this month. Don’t mindlessly accept every invitation to Christmas events with your extended family, friends, and co-workers. If you allow yourself some downtime, you have the resources to enjoy the events you do decide to attend.