How to Stay Informed Without Burning Out
We are 8 months into 2020, and I am not the first person to notice that it feels like a decade has gone by. Coronavirus has turned everyone’s world upside down and taken countless lives in the past few months. On top of a pandemic, innocent black people continue to be murdered by the police and the tension has boiled over in the aftermath of George Floyd’s sadistic killing, sparking protests all over the globe. With an upcoming presidential election in November, there is a lot to be stressed about.
Staying informed is an important and responsible thing to do. Learning about political issues, forming your own opinions, and engaging in dialogue are all great things, but it can get to be too much quickly. It’s hard to be an empathetic person and be greeted day after day with bad news. It can be easy to burn out, become depressed, and cynical about the world. How does one balance being an informed citizen while looking after your own mental health? How can we take care of ourselves when we turn on the news and see everything going wrong?
This affects certain people more than others, most notably disenfranchised and oppressed people. For example, people who are immunocompromised or are otherwise more vulnerable to coronavirus are probably going to pay attention to the news more and be more distressed by what they see. For black people as well, who are witnessing people who look like them are being brutally killed by police, it is not as easy to ignore what is going on. Being politically apathetic is a privilege when the news is mirroring so many people’s lived experiences.
I believe there’s a balance to be struck between being informed and drowning in all the bad news we are faced with. These are tips I have heard and/or thought up that I want to share, but different things will work for different people, so find what works for you!
1. Take a break
If scrolling through your newsfeed or watching the news is making you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed, it might be healthy to take a step back. Staying up to date is important, but your mental health is more important. There’s nothing wrong with taking time away from the news to take care of yourself. The news will still be there when you get back. If you follow the news often, maybe schedule small breaks away from it or take a long detox if you need it.
On social media, like Twitter or Facebook, I find it really easy to scroll through hours of content and when I’m using these platforms for the news, it can get disheartening really quickly. It’s great to be passionate about a cause and throw yourself into it, but this can backfire.
I experienced this early on in the Democratic primary. I was extremely passionate about my candidate and every time I went on Facebook I was met with news from an opponent that made my blood boil. For a few weeks, I obsessively consumed political content and screamed to all my friends about the primary and thought about it whenever I wasn’t doing school work.
There was no room to just relax anymore, and so I took a much-needed break. Taking that break didn’t make me selfish or mean I didn’t care about what was going on, it just meant I was giving too much of myself to anger and I needed to step back a bit and return when I was ready. I think now when the news is affecting all of us so directly, this might be more important than ever.
I’ve written a blog post about mindfulness before and it was one of my favorite things to write on this platform. I’m a big believer in mindfulness, and it is one of the most beautifully simple things ever. Mindfulness is simply being aware of the present moment, not the past or the future. It’s tapping into what thoughts, feelings, and experiences you are having and accepting them all.
Mindfulness can be sitting with yourself, counting your breaths, or doing yoga, or just noticing where your mind wanders off too. When we’re overwhelmed and feeling really strong emotions, mindfulness can tether us to the ground again and remind us that we are okay. When watching the news, it can be easy to get swept up away in wondering what comes next and feeling anxious for the future. Mindfulness brings us to the present moment and brings a deep sense of calm and acceptance.
Being mindful doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take up meditation or yoga, it just means noticing where your mind goes to, wondering about your thoughts, and grounding yourself in the present.
3. Give to a cause you care about
When reading the news, it’s easy to feel helpless to change the world we live in. Something that helps me feel a little more in control is doing something to help, even if it’s something small. Upset about the primaries, I donated money to my favorite candidate. Disheartened by the mental health crisis the coronavirus is causing, I started volunteering with Crisis Text Line. These little things may be small, but they help me feel productive and like I’m contributing to something much bigger than myself. Getting involved at a healthy level can reduce some of the distress about the state of the world and what’s going on. Giving back feels good and it can be a productive way to meet people who care about the same things you do, to stay informed, and keep yourself healthy at the same time.
These are just a few ideas, and these are things that I know help me, but these may not work for you, and that’s okay! Whatever works for you is great. I know how easy it is to get sucked into a cycle of stress and despair when watching the news, and I know it doesn’t have to be this way. Please take care of yourself, and be mindful of the media you consume and how it makes you feel. Being involved in politics is important, engaging with the news is great, but do it in a healthy way that doesn’t consume your life. In times like these especially, I feel it’s more important than ever to look after ourselves. So please be kind and gentle with yourself. You deserve it.