The Single Most Important Story on Cable News Last Week

Good morning. I hope you are having a lovely Wednesday morning.  Take a deep breath and let today’s Resilient Wednesday provide a few ideas on keeping you in an accessible place!

Our nervous system is built to protect us. That function is hard-wired and holds primacy in our lives. If there is a natural or perceived emergency or even the threat of a dangerous situation occurring, we move into a fight, flight, or freeze mode. It is the most potent survival strategy for all species, including us humans.

In a small move to dial back the intensity of our stress reaction, Chris Licht, the new boss at CNN, announced that the cable news station will decrease the use of the “Breaking News” banner that usually accompanies any news story wasn’t happening 3 hours ago. Paired with the news anchor’s concerned voice or the larger-than-life font on our devices, our bodies react to that chyron as if this day’s crisis threatens our existence. It rarely does, but our brain’s amygdala doesn’t always know that, so it goes to “manage the stress.” That usually leads to shallowing breathing, worrisome thoughts, and drained energy.

We don’t have to read the news to experience crises and stress in our own lives. We do a fine job of creating our challenges, whether it is dealing with Covid fatigue

(and Covid is still a real issue), return to work expectations, or paying for $6/gallon gasoline.

The actions of Mr. Licht have a little actual bearing on our lives, but his message to dial back the intensity is essential. What would it be like if the “emergency meeting” scheduled for 7 AM was held at 9 AM instead? Catastrophizing a delayed air flight misses the critical factor that another one is planned for a few hours later.  Openly criticizing employees’ work-from-home routine by calling it an excuse not to work (per Elon Musk) merely agitates our nervous system in a way that costs us energy, peace of mind, and focus.

No good comes from it.

Returning home from holiday this past weekend, our flight to make a connection in Denver was delayed by 90 minutes, meaning that we had about 15 minutes to complete the plane back to Pittsburgh. Of course, we landed at a faraway gate and raced to our new gate. I felt a slight vibration in my pocket and reached for my phone. The text message read:

“Take a deep breath—we’re holding your
flight for a few extra minutes.
Your friends at United Airlines.”

If your organization is constantly running “Breaking News” stories across your cultural footprint, you need a reset. Let’s talk and see if we can help your leaders strengthen their skills at dialing back the intensity while creating a fantastic workplace.

© Richard Citrin 2022

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