When Is It Time To Take A Break From The News?
During my morning coffee. Over my lunch break. While cooking dinner. Any other time I felt I needed to keep up with the outside world that I barely felt a part of anymore.
These are the times that I have found myself routinely watching the news this past year. Prior to 2020, I’d usually turn it on maybe once a day. But since the world turned upside down, I, like many Americans, became glued to the TV — and not in a good way.
From April to June 2020, news consumption in the US grew significantly — and it became the most popular genre of TV to view with nearly 50% of Americans watching or streaming the news.
Paying attention to the news is not just turning on the television — it’s also scanning the internet or social media for updates. From March 2019 to March 2020, the time Americans spent online on mobile devices accessing current events and global news skyrocketed 215%.
As people remain home to protect one another from COVID-19, the news can feel like one of the only ways to stay connected to the outside world, even if it is full of a pandemic, social unrest, and even killer bees. Unfortunately, this constant connection may actually do more harm than good.
In order to take care of your mental health, it’s time to assess — when should you take a break from the news?
What Can Too Much News Consumption Do To You?
During any year, the news can be overwhelming. But during 2020 and 2021, the headlines have been more anxiety-inducing than ever.
Whether it’s an update on pandemic-related deaths, the continued racism that plagues our country, or the ever-tumultuous political ongoings, watching the news these days may leave you a little (or a lot) on edge.
One of the problems is that the news tends to serve up current events with a side of political perspective. This type of news is often dominated by negative stories, and it can leave viewers feeling helpless in the face of bad news.
One 2017 Dutch study found that people’s well-being decreased 6.1% for each news program they watched that offered a political perspective.
Source: The Atlantic
If you’re able to find less politically-focused news (though, good luck on that mission) you still may encounter negative effects. After watching the news, more than half of Americans report experiencing stress. Many also report experiencing:
- Difficulty sleeping
In addition, disaster media — which contains reports of crises and disaster — has been all too common as of late. Watching disaster media may lead to:
- Alcohol use
- Tobacco Use
- Post-traumatic symptoms
When It’s Time For A Break From The News
No matter the year, watching too much of the news can take its toll on your mental health. And if you’ve felt particularly overwhelmed when watching the news recently, you’re not alone.
As you navigate how to keep you and your family safe during the pandemic, stay engaged with fighting racial inequities, and follow the first critical days of newly sworn-in President Biden, it’s normal to experience a wave of emotions.
Still, it remains crucial to monitor these feelings to ensure they don’t venture into an unhealthy state of mind. Some concerning signs to look out for include:
- Feeling a sense of haze, detachment, or being on autopilot
- Filling up every moment with the news, such as while reheating food, cleaning, or cooking
- Feeling anxious when you don’t watch the news temporarily
- Spending less time on healthy activities, such as exercising, connecting with loved ones, or sleeping
If any of these sounds familiar, it may be time for a temporary break from the news. Give yourself a few days or a week — whatever sounds achievable and helpful to you.
Should you decide to take a short hiatus from the news, remember that it’s not limited to turning on the morning or nightly broadcast. The news can come from social media feeds, which are constantly exposing you to the ongoings of the world — whether you asked for it or not.
Moving forward, remain mindful of how much of your day is consumed by the news. Just as staying informed may be a part of your daily routine, make sure that not watching the news is a part of it, too.
The news will be there waiting for you when you return. But by spending some time away, you’ll be able to navigate it with a healthier state of mind.
Can we help you create engaging content for your healthcare organization? Let us know.
How To Get Some Alone Time While Living In Tight Quarters — Even During A Pandemic
Recently, a daytime talk show host said that her 15 minutes of bathroom time has become precious to her. A year ago, that would sound like a strange statement. But when people are largely staying at home due to social distancing, it actually sounds pretty normal — and definitely accurate for many.
Whether you’re in a state that’s still largely shut down or one that’s entering phases of reopening, the COVID-19 pandemic is not gone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend staying at home whenever possible. And for people who do not live alone, this can mean more time constantly being around others and struggling to find some alone time.
But alone time is important — not just for your sanity but for other reasons, as well.
Alone Time: The Science-Backed Benefits
- Improves stress management
- Increases happiness
- Boosts productivity
- Sparks creativity
- Increases empathy for others
- Provides you with insight into who you are as a person
For celebrities with their sprawling mansions or Americans who live in rural areas with large plots of land, this may be relatively easy (though it can certainly feel stuffy in its own way). But for those of us living in a smaller space or a full house, the tight quarters may be enough to make you want to spend not just 15 minutes in the bathroom alone — but the entire day.
While there’s no magical fix to making your house larger overnight, there are ways to get some alone time during the pandemic.
1. Utilize places of solace, like your car.
Hiding in the bathroom may work for a little while, but if you have children, they’ll be knocking on your door before you know it. If you don’t have children, the people you share a house with will wonder if you’re okay, and they won’t be able to use the facilities themselves (assuming that you don’t have an extra bathroom).
Don’t worry — there are other places you can find solace, such as your car. No, you don’t need to get in it and drive away, but you can use it as a space for some alone time. Listen to music or your favorite podcast, talk on the phone, sit and meditate, or do nothing at all. The beauty is that there won’t be anyone asking you for a quick favor (because everybody knows those “Got a sec?” requests are never just one second).
Even if you’re just sitting in your car in front of your house, it allows you to respect social distancing rules and avoid public places while still getting that solitude you truly need.
2. Get outside (safely).
Depending on where you live, there are likely some places where you can get outside and still maintain distance. The more obvious places, such as a local park or nearby trail, are a great start. But if you’re a city dweller or looking for some change in scenery, there are other places that offer some space for some “me time,” such as:
- A rooftop
- An empty parking lot
- An open running track
Some cities, like Chicago and Oakland, are also designating some streets as “slow streets” or “shared streets.” These are intended to open up streets to accommodate walkers, runners, and bikers in addition to local traffic that are required to drive a bit slower than normal.
Whether you go for a walk, a jog, or simply pop up a lawn chair and sit down with a book, these are all places to safely distance while spending some alone time outside.
3. Put it on the calendar.
When all else fails, you may need to seek out some space within the confines of your own home. While this may sound impossible (particularly if you have little ones), it’s doable — especially if you schedule your alone time so everyone knows not to bother you.
If you and your partner are both working from home right now, take a look at your schedules and workflow. Find some time slots a few days a week where you can both alternate managing the kids.
If it’s just you and your children at home, consider planning your alone time for when they’re occupied and safe, such as while they’re taking a nap or watching their favorite television show in the next room.
Even if you don’t have children — or they’re older and don’t need to be watched — it may still be helpful to let everyone know you’re off-limits for the time being. Put your alone time in writing somewhere as if it were a doctor’s appointment or another meeting.
A Note About Multitasking
Spending time on your own is critical to your well-being, but it defeats the purpose if you try to do a dozen other tasks during your alone time.
Think of your body like your cell phone — if you want to charge it efficiently, you need to put it on the charger and leave it alone. Playing around with it while it’s regaining power takes away from its ability to recharge.
During your alone time, don’t try to multitask. This means no meetings, no quick-checks of your email, and no other people. Train yourself to appreciate solitude — your mental and physical health will thank you for it.