Let’s face it — the news of the world can be pretty heavy at times. Even the toughest and most resilient among us are susceptible to bouts of anxiety caused by news of local or world events. Our evolving relationship with social media can exacerbate the problem, causing us to feel compelled to continually check for updates on the stories that concern us.
The bad news about bad news overload
While it’s true that some amount of anxiety is healthy, prompting us to be cautious and thoughtful as we move through the world, we all know how unpleasant it is to suffer from too much. In fact, there’s even talk of people developing post-election stress disorder in response to the 24-hour news cycle.
It’s easy to fall into a negative feedback loop, where our brains and bodies work against each other, amplifying stress and worry. We make poor food choices and don’t get enough sleep, which in turn sets us up for a bad start to the following day.
Why not make a concerted effort to disrupt the cycle with a news-free day? Add in a few a few additional healthy steps along the way, and you’ve got a perfect answer to the hyperactive stream of news and information that swirls around us.
Envisioning your no-bad-news day
If you have young children, as I do, the following scenario may be a bit optimistic (OK, laughable) — I get it. But, work with me! When I imagine what a perfect day of unplugging from the news might look like, here’s what I see:
Awake and unplug
You wake up at 8 a.m. on Saturday and grab your phone from the bedside table. Rather than lazing in bed, compulsively checking in on all your news and social feeds like you usually do, you go into settings and mute the notifications from those sites. Because your goal is to interact with your phone and other modern devices as little as possible, you get out of bed and start your day.
Sweat out the stress
To help keep you active and minimize the temptation to peek at Twitter, you suit up for a run. Exercise is one of the best stress-relievers we have available to us, so you head out to get your heart rate elevated. As you run, you are mindful of all the people you see staring at their phones, and you strengthen your resolve to focus on the physical world in front of you instead of the virtual one that normally takes up so much of your attention.
Getting connected: food and friendship
After the run, you shower and get dressed, and put together a recovery meal. As part of your mental health day, you’ve vowed to stick to healthy eating, mainly focusing on avoiding processed foods. No need to go overboard here — we are trying to enjoy the day, after all.
Besides, you are going to meet up with some friends for dinner later tonight. You fight off the urge to ease into your chair and just peek at your sites. You wonder if this is what quitting smoking feels like. It makes sense that many researchers consider social media addiction to be a real concern — it’s taking serious effort to stick to your goal of staying away from stress triggers online.
Sitting at dinner with friends, you note to yourself that you have no idea what’s happening on the internet, and you don’t mind. You enjoy the meal and conversation with friends, and relish the real-world interaction. You haven’t worried about climate change in hours.
Turn on, tune in
You have a few hours before bed, and decide to treat yourself to some real decadence: the TV and couch. You go over the events of your day, and note that it was fulfilling. You stuck to your goal of staying offline and away from the news stories and personalities that you relentlessly follow, and so deserve some time to get lost in a show or movie. It will keep your brain occupied and, therefore, less prone to start worrying.
Get those eight hours
You are in bed at 10 p.m., with a plan to get more sleep than you usually do. No lying in bed, flicking up on your phone for an hour before falling asleep, searching for increasingly lurid and shocking news stories. Instead, you flip through a nature magazine before drifting off to sleep. Getting enough quality sleep does wonders for the brain, and you are determined to cap off your mental health day with at least eight hours of sleep — as you know you should do every night, but never seem to.
Commit to staying centered
How does that sound? Idyllic? Nerve-wracking? Even if you’re not ready for a hundred percent news detox, it can help to be more mindful of your social media usage in the days and months ahead. And, remember, if you are ever feeling overwhelmed by our modern social media culture, you can take a step back and disengage for a little while.