Making News Digestible
Stressful national and international events have always been overwhelming, but with the advent of the internet and social media, access and exposure is constant. Today it seems we can never get a break from stressful information, political conflict, and sensationalized fear-mongering. At the same time, knowing what is going on out there and access to information is vital right now, especially for our collective survival. So, what is a person to do especially at a time when access to the internet may be our only form of current connection to our social life and the world at large?
Sometimes it helps to make the world and access to it a little smaller. We can reclaim some of our power and sanity over our place in the information super-high way with just a little self-employed structure, selective attention, and limits.
- Know who your trusted information sources are and choose a limited number of times you can check those sources in the day. Maybe it’s for an hour after your morning workout and an hour before dinner.
- Try to limit the number of hours you can attend to the news and social media. Two hours is generally a healthy amount of time, but if you feel you need more try not to exceed 4 hours.
- When reading your chosen news source practice utilizing selective attention. Decide ahead of time that you are going to focus your attention on the facts such as sentences stating statistics, guidelines, and resources. If a sentence utilizes several adjectives or appears to be more subjective in nature, practice disregarding by skimming or skipping, in order to maintain an accurate view of what is happening. With practice attending to the digestible information can become almost second nature.
- The same logic cited above can be applied to skimming your newsfeed. Too many adjectives usually means it depicts someones emotional reactions. The one caveat is if someone on social media is citing and sharing ‘facts’, go ahead and fact check if it is concerning to you, especially if the information feels too scary or overwhelming. Snopes, ProPublica, and the Washington Post Fact Checker are all excellent options for filtering out the facts.
- Set limits on your devices. All apple products have a screen limits option in settings where you can choose how much media exposure you want to allow yourself. Android and Microsoft have similar settings or applications for this purpose.
- Don’t be afraid to block content/unfollow people. If someone continuously is making posts that are upsetting to you, you can choose to take them off of your newsfeed, unfollow, or even unfriend. It is unlikely they will ever know about this choice, and as far as FOMO goes, is missing out on anxiety or anger inducing posts really the worst thing.
- Utilize the extra time away from screens to go old school. For most of us our eyes and brains get plenty of screen time throughout the day, why not give them a break and return to old fashion phone calls for stimulating conversations and board games or family fun for a little distraction mixed into quality relationship building.
- Finally, remember to practice self-care with these limits in place, whether it’s in the form of fully engaging yourself in cooking, a beloved hobby, practicing meditation, putting more energy into a workout routine, etc. Give the things you love a little more of you and media a little less.
With a little limit setting and brain training, you may be surprise at how much less stressful this stressful time can be, and how much more of yourself you are able to engage in the things you love.
By Tracy K. Lehman, MA, LMFT