Here’s how a typical day used to go for me
I wake up and check my phone. NEWS FLASH: Trump’s Tweets, Russia, DACA, Neo-Nazis. My heart breaks and I feel helpless.
I listen to NPR on my way to work and I get the details about today’s news.
At work I listen to my clients bring up how tired they are of everything happening in our country and our world; how helpless they feel; how their relationships are falling apart due to an ever-widening gap between “us” and “them.”
I check social media during my lunch break and see more opinions than I can digest with my food and shut my laptop.
I get home from work and my husband asks me if I heard the latest news. I ask, “Is there new stuff since this morning?” There usually is. I feel too tired to learn more so I wait for a late night comedian to fill in the details for me – at least I can laugh a little while I learn about the whirlwind of things that are happening.
Go to bed. Wake up. Repeat.
Then I Made A Plan To Avoid Political Burnout
I’ve learned the hard way that I need to change my disciplines around taking in political news as well as when, where, and how I choose to turn on the “activist” section of my brain. If I don’t, I very quickly fall into the snares of political burnout.
We all can muster up motivation or strength for bouts of time, but at some point when it becomes too prolonged we run out of steam, grow exhausted, and burn out.
We need to take care of ourselves and take breaks from stress and frustration in order to be able to sustain our participation in the news.
Given how frequently the news cycle loops around, it’s important to set boundaries around when and how we take in the news as well as how we choose to respond. “Breaking news” is the new “news,” so a strategy of only listening to the most important news is no longer sustainable – you’ll be overwhelmed by a never ending onslaught of information.
1. Have dedicated times of the day when we choose to inform ourselves of the news.
I have a routine of listening to the daily NPR podcast “Up First” each morning to give me a 10-minute digest of the latest happenings.
From there I may choose to search trusted news outlets for more information about anything that seems important from the podcast. Then, I close it all down. I don’t use Facebook, I don’t check news outlets.
2. Take time to digest the news
I let the rest of my day be my day while I allow myself time to digest the news. If there’s an appropriate response to all the news, I take my time allowing a response to come to the surface; I want to avoid emotionally reacting to each new piece of news and frantically reposting everything I see that makes me feel some type of way.
3. Take a News Sabbath
Last but not least, I take a “news sabbath” every week. For an entire day, I choose not to consume any news. I give my mind a break to re-energize for another week of news cycles.
I’ve found my biggest hurdle in keeping up with this discipline is the sensation of being “behind.” In my head it sounds like, “What if something significant happened in our nation and someone else brings it up before I’ve heard about it?” I’ve grown a greater awareness of how much news can turn into something to be consumed in order to keep up with the Jones’.
Our desire to appear like we are informed can take over and make our agendas become more important to us than our desire to support the greater good. We can be more concerned about how philanthropic we appear than we are concerned for those we’re supposedly advocating for.
The option to turn off the TV, close my laptop, and take a break from my phone offers me the privilege of taking a break from the news. When I take a sabbath from the news, news is still happening everywhere.
4. Remember that Taking a Break is a Privilege
When we make the choice to take breaks from news consumption, we do so knowing that those who are suffering or living in fear do not have the same option to simply “turn off” the pain; yet we have to set limits on how much we learn so we can hopefully save energy to contribute something meaningful back to the world and potentially respond to some of the problems we learn about in the news.
I hope we all take a hard look at how we are consuming news updates. If you’re like me and you’re prone to worry about keeping up, I encourage you to implement a more controlled intake of the news.
If you’re more prone to avoiding all the news because of how overwhelming it can be, I encourage you to find manageable ways to be informed in small amounts.
Some of us might be burnt out from from all the news that gets shared and re-shared via social media, in which case you might benefit from logging off for some time while you opt to focus your news consumption energies towards reliable news sources covering a broad scope of issues.
I hope we can all be informed without drowning in all there is to absorb.