Struggling to stay informed with current events without diving headfirst into the abyss? Below you’ll find a few things you can do to find balance and not go crazy.
It feels like the first six months of 2020 were a rollercoaster of current events. We started with a fire, then an almost war, later the debate about an unknown virus, and then the economic fallout as we learned more about COVID-19 and reacted.
Add to that the fact that it’s an election year, and it can start to feel like everything that happens is an essential piece of information that you need to be aware of, so you consume all the information you can.
Afterward, you might find yourself feeling a little overwhelmed, and well, crazy. Is it essential to stay informed about events around us? Is there a point where it all becomes too much?
Why staying informed is important
There are several reasons people must be informed citizens. The first of which is that informed citizens are the basis of a properly functioning democracy. Second, taking part in meaningful conversations can lead to novel ideas and lasting change. Finally, we can learn more about the world and step outside our bubbles. These things are critical to our growth and satisfaction with life.
A democracy in which people vote on issues and principles means that they must have a basic understanding of said issues. A comprehensive understanding would be much better. Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Richard Price, said, “a sense of this necessity, & a submission to it is to me, a new and consolatory proof that wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.” Our founding fathers believed in being informed, and that fostered many meaningful conversations that led to our government’s foundation.
Conversations that allow people to become exposed to recent information and beliefs can lead to education and personal growth. According to psychologist Matthias Mehl, having substantive discussions can also lead to happiness. He says that “humans are driven to create meaning in their lives, and substantive conversations help us do that, he said.
Also, human beings — both introvert and extrovert — are social animals who have a real need to connect with others.” This need for connection encourages us to speak to unfamiliar people, learn about our ancestors, and shape the future.
When we learn something about another culture or place, we step outside of our bubble and become more diverse. Seeking information has enabled humans to understand the past better and learn from our mistakes. We can then use that knowledge to affect the future positively…leave a legacy. You can not do that if you do not seek information and learn about what is happening in the world.
While these are important reasons to stay informed, engaging in a constant stream of information, which often conflicts with other information, can lead to diving down the rabbit hole of crazy. How do you find balance?
Things you can do keep the flow of information from driving you crazy
Markham Heid cites a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, claiming, “More than half of Americans say the news causes them stress, and many report feeling anxiety, fatigue or sleep loss as a result, the survey shows. Yet one in 10 adults checks the news every hour, and fully 20% of Americans report “constantly” monitoring their social media feeds—which often exposes them to the latest news headlines, whether they like it or not.”
Has the steady stream of COVID-19 data kept you up at night? Are you losing sleep over the latest political argument? Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to find balance and not go crazy.
Find one good article from a reliable source and start there. If it is an article where the subject is specific, and not universally understood, you might prefer to do some research. Take the time to make sure that the author of your research pieces is an expert and distinctly explains things.
Have questions about virology? Don’t just settle for a YouTube video by someone who has “Dr.” in front of their name. You might find out he has a Doctorate in computer science, and apart from a Bachelor’s in biology, little medical knowledge. And at no point studied viruses. Be careful of sharing or absorbing memes that contain no evidence. Filter out all the static and get the facts.
Understand that someone else’s opinion is not news
Watching The View. Engaging in debates on Facebook. Listening to Hannity. These things are all outstanding examples of opinions masquerading as news. Just because it airs on a news network, does not make these shows newscasts. If you are going to watch the news, watch it while it is being reported.
Do you want to know how the debate went? Then watch the debate. Are you interested in what The President had to say today? Then view his press conference in real-time or a recorded version of the entire thing, not clips and clickbait segments.
Limit the time you spend consuming news
Just because news channels offer news 24/7 doesn’t mean you need to be watching it. During the onset of the pandemic, I checked the stats and the press conference information approximately every 20 minutes; all day long. I would read every recent article that popped up, even though they were nearly identical. I would announce that another 100 people had died, or been diagnosed since the last time I provided an update.
We have this term in the business world called “diminishing returns.” It means that the profit or benefit gained is less than the cost, or energy, that you are putting into a project. That is happening when we consume the same information repeatedly; the price is overshadowing any benefit.
Check the news once in the morning, after you have hydrated, exercised, and meditated. Then maybe once more in the evening after enjoying dinner with the family. Just try not to make processing the news the first and last thing you do each day. And then don’t fill all the spaces in between with news watching and information consumption.
Monitor your mental state
I know this one might sound rather straightforward, but it’s hard to do. There are so many things happening that add to the anxiety and depression many people live with already. Don’t just assume that there is nothing you can do and get sucked into feeling even worse.
Many online counseling options let you speak with a licensed counselor from your keyboard if you don’t feel like seeing one personally. Talk to a trusted friend about any changes in your mood. Make doing things that make you happy a priority. Be productive if that helps you feel more fulfilled.
Don’t ignore yourself in the quest to figure out what is happening in the rest of the world. I like poetry, writing fiction, and reading, so I have been doing more of that!
Use apps and technology to retrain your brain
There are several mental health and mediation apps available for your phone. Accepting the fact that we can only control so much will help you stop stressing. Headspace and Calm are two apps that helpful for someone who is looking for guided meditation apps. If you are looking for an app that offers more quantitative data, like sleep patterns, mood, and stress levels, check out NeuroFlow and Unmind.
There is no perfect solution that will work for everyone with managing their mental health, so if one thing isn’t working, then try another! Having tools that track your anxiety and mood and offering breathing exercises and meditation tips might be just what you need.
Adding in a daily routine will also help you build accountability with yourself and aid in increasing your self-respect. It can also be beneficial when trying to train your brain to see things a little differently. Having a routine is a vital tool for many people.
Only you will know the right thing to do for you
You will know when you hit your point of diminishing returns. If you are irritable, snapping at people, and continuously alerting everyone to changes as soon as they happen, you might be in danger of doing more harm than good with newsgathering.
Remember to stay informed with facts and fewer opinions. Limiting your flow of news stories and monitoring your mental state will help keep the anxiety at bay.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it, either in person or through technology. Feel free to leave any tips for balancing being informed without diving headfirst into the abyss in the comment section below!