My stomach has been in knots for weeks.
Fires. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Acts of Violence. Sexual harassment.
Human suffering is never easy to swallow, but the amount we’ve seen just in this last month is a lot to process all at once. Understandably, anxiety levels are high. Nowadays, news is everywhere. It’s important to stay informed, and burying your head in the sand is not a viable option. So how does one stay up-to-date without gutting his/her health?
The first step is to acknowledge how it’s impacting you, noting your body’s reactions (which can be physical such as acid reflux, and/or emotional such as moodiness), and put action steps in place to maintain your health and sanity.
According to a 10/13 NY Times article, we are experiencing disaster fatigue and our mobile devices aren’t helping. Studies show some three out of four people check their smartphone before going to bed and shortly after waking up in the morning, (and) it’s getting harder not to feel overwhelmed.”
Evaluating your typical media consumption routine, and committing to a “media diet” will reduce the toll on your well-being.
Imagine watching a horrific movie right before going to bed, and then expecting to sleep soundly. Compound that with the “blue light” given off by electronic devices, which reduces melatonin levels (the sleep hormone), and you’re screwed before you even close your eyes.
That’s the equivalent of spending the whole day reading, discussing and posting about the most recent agonizing story, slipping into bed while checking the latest headlines on your smart phone, and then trying to drift off to sleep. Oh, and don’t forget checking again to see what happened upon waking, before even hopping out of bed. And that doesn’t even count the “alerts.”
According to the NYT article, “The average person checks their phone some 150 times a day. And that constant connection wires us to want more.” It’s like trying to eat just one potato chip – you just can’t.
Commit to some small changes to balance your media intake and support your health during these difficult times:
- Reduce automatic alerts – on top of everything else, you do NOT need your phone buzzing every few moments. This is called a “push” technique where the alert gets pushed out to you. Don’t “allow” notifications and instead employ “pull” techniques and check for updates on your terms and time, when you’re in the best mindset to digest information.
- Set an alarm – limit the amount of time you spend perusing the media. If you get sucked down a rabbit hole, the alarm will pull you right back out.
- Turn the darn thing (briefly) off – I realize the notion of stepping away from your device might send you right into a panic, but put your phone on airplane mode while you sleep, or leave it in a drawer while you run an errand. The freedom from connection, even just for a short period of time, allows your mind room for creative thought, feels amazing, and you will return with more focus.
- Focus on good news –Train your mind to look for the good instead of thriving on the bad. Similar to a gratitude practice, write down three good things that happen every day. Consult apps like Upworthy, engage in an act of kindness, get a laugh from animal videos or these Awkward Family Photos to inspire you.
- Socialize – nothing like spending time with loved ones to put some wind in your sails. Just place a moratorium on discussing heavy news for at least half the time. Go ahead, make a date with someone now!
- Practice self care – you know what makes you feel good. A workout? Meditation? Good book? Cleaning? Massage? Music? Whatever it is, put that anxious energy to good use and set aside time for YOU to do something nice for yourself.
I wish I had a magic wand to make any suffering go away. But life is not a fairytale and we face serious issues today, many outside of our control. It’s natural to want to help those in peril and definitely do so when you can. Volunteer, donate, write notes, and/or be a part of change. But when that is not realistic and you feel helpless and anxious, be compassionate with yourself and others. Put mechanisms in place to influence things you can control, like your media diet. Small changes make big differences.
Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™