How often do you check the news? Once when you wake up, probably—and once again before you start working, and one more time when you need a break from work, and another quick glance at lunch, and ... well, you get the idea.
The trouble is that, most of the time, the news isn’t all that new. We’re still in a pandemic. We’re still in an economic crisis. We still don’t know when or how things are going to change.
Which means that it might be time to change our own habits. Specifically, our habit of circling news and social media sites every hour, on the hour, in the hopes that we’ll see something that might make us feel better about all of this uncertainty.
Because—as you probably already know—we’re just as likely to see something that makes us feel worse. A speculative article theorizing just how bad the economy might get. A Twitter thread about whether or not it’s safe to visit a public park, with back-and-forth arguments in the replies. An op-ed about how poorly the pandemic has been handled.
So it’s time to consider a news diet. If you check your sites every hour, for example, try checking them once or twice a day. Maybe you’ll read the news before work and after lunch (because you don’t want to stress yourself out right before you take a break) and then put a moratorium on news and social media until the next morning.
I know it’s going to be hard to stop reading the news, especially if that’s your default method of relaxing your mind between work tasks—but since the news isn’t very relaxing right now, you aren’t even giving yourself the mental break you need. (That’s just one of the many reasons why it’s so hard to be productive these days.) Try finding something else to read and scroll through during those moments when you need a break to read and scroll. I’ve found that reading casual, comforting ebooks, either on my laptop or on my smartphone, scratches that “I need to stare and tap at some words that aren’t related to work” itch without exposing me to the news and social media cycles of speculation and anxiety.
If you’re a podcast listener, find some podcasts that aren’t news-related—or consider finding something else to listen to. (At this point I’ve unsubscribed to the majority of my formerly favourite podcasts, swapping them out for classic Broadway cast albums and the bands I listened to when I was a teenager.) If you like having the television on as background noise, watch the Game Show Network instead of CNN. If social media is the way you remain connected with friends and family, cull your follow lists until they only contain the people you truly care about—and consider blocking certain anxiety-inducing words so that they won’t appear in your feeds.
Because when there’s news worth knowing, whether it’s a working vaccine or another round of stimulus money, trust us, you’ll know.