How Re-Watching Movies and TV Shows Helps Me Cope With My Anxiety

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Monica Drake

| 3 min read

As a kid, I found comfort in re-watching movies and TV shows. I've lost count of the times I've watched "The Little Mermaid," "Wizard of Oz" and old "Full House" and "Boy Meets World" episodes.
Now, as an adult, I've found that when I'm feeling depressed or particularly anxious, I will revert to that old childhood habit of watching movies and shows I've already seen. And, when I'm feeling like this, sometimes watching something new will actually make me feel worse. 

I know I'm not alone; it's a common phenomenon for people with anxiety to re-watch movies and TV series, re-read books, and re-listen to podcasts. But why is that? I think it's because their familiarity provides comfort. There are no surprises; we already know we love it because we've already seen it.
For me, there's nothing worse than watching a new movie while having an anxiety attack and HATING it. Or, even worse, a dog or a cat dies in the movie. Even when the movie is good, I’m too anxious or sad to pay attention to it, so I will zone out during entire scenes and have no clue what's happening.

According to The Guest House treatment facility, when someone watches the same show multiple times, their brains process it easier than it would something new. 
"Their cognitive abilities are constantly cluttered by their worries. They have less cognition to give to any activity. Re-watching a show takes their brain less focus and cognitive effort to achieve the same effect," they write.

For me, after the deaths of three of my aunts within only six months, life in general has felt uncertain and out of my control. As a result, the only reprieve I've had is while watching movies/shows I've already seen and reading books I've already read. Maybe it's because it's the only thing that feels predictable to me right now.

I don't have the mental capacity to get to know new characters or follow along with new plots. Instead, I want to catch up with characters who feel like old friends, and I want to know that everything will work out for them at the end of the movie or episode. I know that Dorothy will, in fact, go home after clicking her heels together.
"Nostalgia can lend us much-needed context, perspective and direction, reminding and reassuring us that our life is not as banal as it may seem. It also tells us that there have been, and once again will be, meaningful moments and experiences," psychologist Neel Burton told the Huffington Post.
So, if you are rewatching something, don't feel like it's a waste of time. Just like sleeping isn't a waste of time, rewatching something has a way of re-energizing us after we feel depleted. And, doing something that makes you feel better — I would never consider that a waste of time. We all have different ways of coping, and I think anything that makes your life even the slightest bit easier is worth it.

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Opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or its subsidiaries and affiliates.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Monica Drake.

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