I have a love/hate relationship with the news. I like knowing what’s going on in the world. I like to feel knowledgeable about what my government and governments around the world are doing. I like to be able to converse about current events.
But keeping up with it all drives my anxiety right up the charts.
War and other violence. Crime. Tragedy. Stories of the bad that has happened or might happen.
I get angry. I talk back to the talking heads on TV. I worry. I mull over the sad stories I hear. I feel helpless.
My reactions to the news go beyond the compassion that I try to have in response to others’ suffering. I make it too personal, and I feel the resulting anxiety and worry.
But lately, I’ve made a change in the way I take in the news.
I used to feel driven to keep up with the news. Part of it was OCD. I was obsessed with gathering knowledge. I would get fixated on a particular topic and think I had to know everything about it.
So I compulsively gathered information, searching the Internet and reading news websites; watching news broadcasts on television, trying to understand what was on the tickertape running at the bottom of the screen while taking in what was being said; reading the newspaper exhaustively, going back and rereading what I thought I hadn’t adequately understood; forgoing listening to music in the car so I could keep up with NPR broadcasts.
I had a sense that something terrible would happen if I didn’t know.
As a newspaper reporter, I of course need to keep up with what’s going on locally. But my search for information went beyond anything I needed to know for my job.
Finally, I got tired and fed up. I realized that keeping up with the news—or at least the way I was doing it—was affecting my mood and my outlook.
And the main thing I realized was that I didn’t have to know everything about everything. I could never know everything anyway. And nothing bad happened if I didn’t know everything possible.
I started experimenting with not being plugged in and tuned in to the news all the time. I worked out a system:
*I check news apps on my phone a few times a day. Two are for local news and two are for national and international news.
*I scan the headlines to get a general idea of what’s going on.
*I read some of the articles that I’m most interested in. I allow myself to skim.
*I rarely visit news websites on the computer. I stick with the apps because it’s quicker and easier to avoid getting distracted by the photos and flashing lights of the Internet.
*I scan the headlines in the local daily newspaper and read the articles that appeal to me. Again, skimming is allowed.
*I seldom sit down to watch a TV news broadcast. If I do, I listen to the first few minutes to catch the top stories, and then do something else.
*I still love NPR, but if a news story doesn’t appeal to me or upsets me, I don’t hesitate to switch to music.
I believe that I have a responsibility to learn about what’s happening in the world. To be a good citizen of the world, I need to understand it and take action when needed.
But my mental and emotional health doesn’t have to suffer because of that.
What about you? How do you keep up with the news?