Why New Parents Need To Take A Break From The News (And What They Should Do Instead)

In the months after my kids were born, the news cycle would send me into tailspins of anxiety and fear. The Penn State sex-abuse scandal and the Newtown shootings paralysed me for days — I wept while changing nappies, wept in the bathtub, wept while pushing the stroller down the street. What might have been (merely!) horrifying pre-kids was now incapacitating. For my own mental health, I had to stop reading the news and looking at social media.

Take a Media Fast

Judging from the conversations in my mums' groups, these feelings aren't at all unusual. New parents are especially vulnerable to anxiety, says Laura Venuto, a New York City therapist specialising in postpartum mental-health issues. "Sleep deprivation and hormones exacerbate mood and anxiety symptoms. With new parenthood comes a heightened awareness that you’re suddenly not only responsible for yourself, but also a small child in what sometimes seems like a dangerous world.”"

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Dr Venuto suggests a total news-media fast or at least a major reduction, corralling your news into 10 or 15 minutes ("In the morning! Not before bed!" she says), and then doing something pleasurable, such as playing with your baby or calling a friend. For those worried that being out of touch means slacking off in their political activism, she gently suggests cutting yourself some slack: "If you’re a new parent, you’re not going to be making changes on a global scale. You’re in survival mode. You can put in a call to your representative, and that can be enough."

Practise 'Containment'

Lissa Hunsicker Kenney, a social worker in Brooklyn who counsels trauma survivors, also recommends "containment" — the first line of treatment for anxiety — as a first step. "Turning off your iPhone is containment — because it’s so easy for it to become uncontained. It just scrolls and scrolls, and it’s endless."

So what are we supposed to do, instead? (Besides take care of our kids, I mean.) I asked Lifehacker readers, and my own new-mum friends, what media they turn to for good escapist distraction. I didn’t vet all the answers (though I did nix anything that had "horror" in its IMDB description — what about "non-disturbing" did these people not understand?) so do your own research before leaping into something totally unknown. They’re a good mix of classics, favourite sitcoms and adventure shows, a few kids' shows and books, comics, and pretty much the entire oeuvre of the BBC.

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Ideally, this list will remind of you of beloved books, TV shows and movies that you’ve enjoyed in the past and will be soothing entertainment now, while you’re still in the sensitive new-parent stage. I read all of Jane Austen at night instead of mindless smartphone scrolling; others swear by sitcoms: "When my son was born we very quickly figured out we had to stop watching Breaking Bad and Walking Dead and just ended up re-watching Parks and Rec on a continuous loop for like three years," one commenter wrote. Check out the original comments here, and please add your favourite comforting (no child-in-peril, no dead parents, no rapes or murders) media below.

TV & Movies

  • 30 Rock
  • All Creatures Great and Small
  • Alias (a spy thriller spanning five seasons, so there are murders and occasional child-in-peril plotlines, but it’s a pretty campy show, so I didn’t find it especially distressing)
  • The Andy Griffith Show
  • Flip This House (or any fixer-upper/DIY type shows)
  • Any stupid Adam Sandler movie
  • Archer
  • Arrested Development
  • Black Adder
  • Black Books
  • Bob’s Burgers
  • Boondocks
  • Borgen
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (skipping "The Body" and maybe the second half of season five)
  • Catastrophe
  • Community
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
  • Critical Role on Geek and Sundry
  • Doctor Thorne (almost comically predictable, appropriate for anyone with only half a functioning brain, but any costume drama will do in a pinch. Check out this terrific resource for period dramas, but I strongly urge you to skip Call the Midwife if you have a newborn)
  • Drunk History
  • Ed, Edd ‘n Eddy
  • Elimidate
  • Everybody Loves Raymond
  • Farscape
  • Father Ted
  • Friends
  • Futurama
  • Get Smart
  • Ghostbusters
  • Gilmore Girls
  • Gravity Falls
  • The Great British Bake-off (or any cooking show)
  • Grey’s Anatomy (I can’t believe this is still on the air; I have like 10 years to catch up on. Warning: It’s a hospital show, so people do die. Deeennnnnnny!)
  • Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Laaaaaaaaaw
  • Hogan’s Heroes
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  • Jeeves and Wooster
  • Kids’ shows and movies, such as Adventure Time, Reading Rainbow (the awesome '80s-'90s version), A Dragon’s Tale, Out of the Box, Teen Titans GO, Rocko’s Modern Life, Hey Arnold!, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Babe, the Narnia movies, Nanny McPhee
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service ("Miyazaki in general is a great way to escape into a different realm. The colours, the music, the gorgeous inventive artwork and the great characters in all his films makes him a master illusionist and conductor into a whole new world..." "...but not Grave of the Fireflies," says another commenter.)
  • Broad City ("It’s hilarious and my life feels like a complete financial success by comparison.")
  • King of the Hill
  • Last Man on Earth
  • Lucha Underground
  • M*A*S*H
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Midsomer Murders ("While there are murders, everyone is so provincial and charming, it’s like coming home where you know everyone except for that darned stranger that got themselves killed.")
  • The Mindy Project
  • Mr Bean
  • MST3K
  • Any terrible reality TV ("I watch The People’s Court or Judge Judy, which I DVR in case I need them.")
  • News Radio
  • Northern Exposure
  • Office Space
  • Only Fools and Horses
  • Over the Garden Wall
  • Parks and Rec
  • Party Down
  • Real Genius
  • Real Housewives ("Oddly enough, RHOC comforts me in that I always feel smart, competent, healthy and sane afterwards.")
  • The Simpsons
  • SlowTV ("Right after the election, my wife and I started watching a lot of SlowTV on Netflix. Things like Norwegian knitting competitions.")
  • Smallville
  • South Park
  • Space: 1999
  • Star Trek
  • Steven Universe
  • Supernatural
  • Taxi
  • The Blues Brothers
  • The Eagle Huntress ("a thoroughly enjoyable documentary")
  • The first three Muppet movies
  • The IT Crowd
  • The Office
  • The Simpsons
  • The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • The West Wing
  • The X Files
  • Top Gear
  • Trainwreck
  • Veep
  • Veronica Mars, season 1
  • The Vicar of Dibley
  • Waiting for Guffman
  • What’s Up, Doc?

Books

  • A Suitable Boy
  • The Age of Innocence, or really anything by Edith Wharton
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • All Creatures Great and Small
  • Anne of Green Gables (really anything by L.M. Montgomery)
  • Born Standing Up
  • Bossypants
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary (good escapist movie too)
  • Calvin and Hobbes
  • Circle of Friends, or really anything by Maeve Binchy
  • The Code of the Woosters, or anything by P.G. Wodehouse
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog
  • The Grand Sophy or anything by Georgette Heyer
  • The Harry Potter series
  • I Capture The Castle
  • I’m Your Biggest Fan
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
  • Jane Eyre
  • The Last Days of Night
  • Love in a Cold Climate
  • Maisie Dobbs
  • Ms Marvel (comic)
  • My Family and Other Animals
  • The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
  • The Other Boleyn Girl, or anything by Philippa Gregory
  • Pride and Prejudice, Emma, or really anything by Jane Austen
  • The Pursuit of Love
  • A Room With a View
  • Restoration, or anything by Rose Tremain
  • Sir John Mortimer’s Rumpole books
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Today Will Be Different
  • Tom Jones
  • Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (comic)
  • Washington Square
  • West With the Night
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
  • Yes Please

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I don't know about you, but my world has been a little more stressful since... say, last November. Even without the continuous news updates — and the time I spend reading them, along with the various Twitter threads that try to game theorise them — I've got a lot to manage and balance in my life. I work part-time as an editor, my debut novel comes out this May, I'm completing assignments for a number of freelance writing clients, I teach writing classes and I'm a volunteer tutor. (And that's just the work stuff.)

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Comments

    Good advice. If you manage to make the break, don't bother going back. Life is infinitely better once you stop watching/reading the tripe that is dished up as news.

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