My heart goes out to the whole world right now. We’re scared. So many people are sick. There’s so much to take in. In order to have some stamina and perspective, we need to practice balance. I’ve struggled with this when it comes to taking in news and social media. I’ve found myself sitting on the edge of the bed in a black hole of “updates,” having let 45 minutes slip by, only feeling more worried.
Here’s an approach to balance that I’m finding helpful right now.
Decide what to consume…
Be responsible about what news and information you pay attention to. A doomsday tweet from a guy you kind of knew in high school might not be as credible as an article citing real data or a message from your cousin’s wife who’s a doctor. This is discernment about what you’re feeding your mind.
…and how much.
It’s important to know about our world and to read updates from experts on safety and policy, but it’s easy to grow in anxiety if we take in too much at once. So how much information do we need? Check in with yourself, make clear determinations (20 minutes of news per day, for example), and keep adjusting to find a balance that’s neither avoidant nor overwhelming.
Let it sink in.
Remember that it’s normal to feel fear and anxiety, especially with the news in this uniquely challenging time. Let yourself feel what comes up. Let your heart break if it breaks. You might find that alongside the hard feelings, there’s also deep concern and compassion that can be quite beautiful. Maybe there’s hope too! Notice the spectrum of feelings that comes up and let it all sink in. Also, it’s important to determine how new information will impact your behavior. If you’re clear on that, you won’t need to keep revisiting it.
Take a look at your mind.
With so much new information, most of us will at least occasionally end up lost in thought or lost in the news. When this happens, ask yourself how you got here. It’s extraordinarily helpful to see clearly that our attention is often driven by habitual, unconscious worry—not clear intention. Notice this without judgment. This is mindfulness of the mind.
Look both ways before clicking.
Next time you’re about to click a news link, see if you can stop for a moment, like a kid playing freeze tag. This moment of pause is a moment of choice—so look both ways before clicking. Do I want to read one more article? Or do I want to rest or take a walk? Either choice is fine! The point is to practice making a conscious, clear-minded choice rather than being pushed around by unconscious habits. The identical process goes for working with your mind. If you can pause right where you are in the middle of a thought spiral, for example, you can consciously choose where you actually want your attention to be. Even if you can press pause like this once a day, you’ve begun the empowering journey of rewiring your habits of mind in a positive direction.
Do good things with your time and with your mind.
With less momentum from our unconscious habits, we can consciously choose to do good things. We can take steps to stay healthy for our sake and for the sake of others. We can check in with people in our lives. We can practice joy and gratitude and kindness. We can tap into our compassion, not just our fear and sadness, when reflecting on those dealing with illness or anxiety—ourselves included. Together, we might even discover ways of being that make this world more safe and connected and caring than it was before.
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