How to Consume the News So It Doesn’t Consume You
How to consume the news so it doesn’t consume you… Here are my tips to help all of us stay informed without becoming overwhelmed.
Focus on the facts…just the facts…in getting the news.
By definition, news is current information. It’s a reporting of facts that can be proven true. Getting the latest news is really just attaining the facts about current situations and events.
In the daily consumption of news, we’re well served to seek the facts first and foremost, with as little interpretation and editorializing as possible.
Why is this? Here are two important reasons.
The more you filter out other’s opinions when getting the headlines, the less chance you’ll become emotionally charged and reactive. So much emotion and negativity reverberates in your nervous system; it gets in your cells. That’s not helpful for you or the people around you.
I’m not suggesting you be an automaton without capacity to feel. Not at all. I’m saying you are fully capable of assessing facts and developing responses—even appropriately emotional ones—without the influence or imposition of someone else’s weighted perspectives.
Receiving facts—without the exclamation points—creates space between the stimulus of the news and your response. In that space lies our greatest human superpower.
When you receive just the facts, you rely on you to assess and make sense of news in a context that’s useful. You’re able to do this by engaging what I call your mental COE—your brain’s Chief of Everything—to discern and process what the facts mean at a higher level.
From there, you the COE may seek outside commentary and opportunities to discuss, but you’ll do so intentionally. You may be more likely to circumvent the agenda-heavy, biased news outlets to find thoughtful, intelligent discussion.
It literally takes more energy to approach news in this manner. Your brain burns more fuel when processing at a higher level, and your mental Support Staff really prefers to be efficient. The majority of your cognitive function is run by this Support Staff and it can override your COE unless you are really intentional. The Support Staff knows it requires less cognitive effort to just tune into the same news outlets, hear the same viewpoints, and get the interpretation mixed in with the facts all the time. That’s why it’s so easier to fall into a rut with news consumption and get information in an echo chamber.
However, you are fully capable of taking the lead and being the COE here! Engaging you the COE strengthens you the COE to exert the needed energy—and this is very helpful in relation to getting and assessing news.
Intelligently filter out news you can’t use.
The mental Support Staff needs you the COE to filter out news that’s salacious, time-sucking, or irrelevant.
News outlets feed a 24/7 news cycle. We have access to ceaseless headlines from every nook on the planet and corner of our local communities. It’s essential that you, the Chief of Everything, intelligently filters out the unnecessary and the junk.
Set parameters to limit the frequency of news consumption.
I’ve just mentioned the 24/7 news cycle in which we live; obviously, news is available to us every minute of every day. However, we don’t benefit from a high frequency of news consumption.
Of course, it’s totally up to you to decide how often you should tune in or log on to get the news. I invite you to consider a frequency of no more than 3 times per day (personally, I prefer once a day, in the evening). Whatever frequency you decide, you must abide.
If you choose to get news headlines once a day in the morning, get news headlines once a day in the morning. If you opt to bookend your day with news, get the info twice daily, and that’s all.
The frequency you choose should serve as a nearly immovable standard.
For breaking news stories that may merit a variance from your standard for news consumption, be judicious. You can likely get the pertinent, useful facts in one segment. Nonstop coverage is often redundant, especially if circumstances are unfolding. Watching ongoing live coverage may only serve to rile you depending on the nature of the news being conveyed. Once you’ve got the facts that are presently available, step away and resume your established news frequency to get updates.
Don’t allow notifications on your phone or ongoing email updates in your inbox.
Just say no to news notifications and email alerts that can activate your emotional mental support staff and override you the COE. Always seek the news proactively on your terms.
Let’s start with phone notifications. Phone notifications of all types are disruptive, and I advise against them with very few exceptions. News notifications are never included on my brief list of possible exceptions.
Every ping breaks your flow, demands attention, and forces you to make a decision in the moment (swipe to read more? clear?, etc.). You must hold the reins about when and how you get information. It’s essential that you initiate any information consumption in order to maintain productivity and peacefulness throughout your day; this is a really vital consideration for modern mental health.
Email news alerts are similarly intrusive, not to mention how much they clutter your inbox—ultimately adding to the efforts you have to make to say organized.
Carefully choose the way you get the news.
The way you get your news matters. In keeping with the recommendation to nix notifications and email alerts, get your news by directly going to the outlet’s website, app, or broadcast programming (or printed version if you’re old school)—only at the times you’ve decided in advance, of course. It’s important that the way you get your news allows you to initiate the process.
This means constant social media checking is a no-go option for keeping up with news. Sure, you are the one making the decision to click over to social media; that action is in your control. However, once you’re there, you don’t have full control over what shows up in your newsfeed. As the name itself suggests, these social platforms feed you the content; they’re holding the spoon—not you. On top of that layer all the arbitrary sharing and comment threads that are par for course on the socials. Talk about a potential for being emotionally jolted—that’s tons of extra work for you the COE to sort through!
Side note, here… Just as I recommend that you decide in advance how often to get news each day, I also recommend you schedule the times you’ll check social media, as well. Keeping this standard will help you avoid cognitive overload altogether.
Here are some scenarios for reference as you decide the way(s) by which you’ll stay informed.
YES: Go directly to the websites or apps of your preferred news sources at the time of day you designate.
YES: Turn on news broadcasts on TV or radio at the time of day you designate.
YES: Sign up for emails that provide a daily or weekly digest of headlines.
NO: Pop over to see news posts on Twitter, Facebook, or other platforms continuously throughout the day.
We human beings were not wired to receive constant, rapid input in forms and formats designed to evoke reactions and spark emotion. Too much news may keep that more primal part of your nervous system activated, and that is bad for you on many levels.
Bonus tip if you prefer video/TV broadcasts:
Prefer video and TV for news, but feeling drained by it all? Try watching the news clips without the sound and captions activated. This may allow you to get the visual alongside the fact without the intonation and newsy background noises that can be triggering.
(Not in video) Bonus tip if you go to social media for news:
If you continue to use social media as a news source and want to protect your mental health, do not engage with the content there. That means no liking, sharing, or commenting. Remember you just need the facts to be informed. Seek intelligent discussion about the news elsewhere to ensure a more helpful environment.
The point here is for you to receive those facts and be able to intelligently process them at a pace that works for you. The inundation of information and formats that other people choose to provide may not work for the best.
In all this, my ultimate goal for myself and for you is to manage what is coming in so that what we put out into the world is extremely thoughtful and intelligent and helpful to move us all forward.
When we are just in reaction mode, getting headline after headline, exclamation points, quips, uh, elevated voice volumes, all that intensity, how can we not react and possibly lose control of our actions that may be involved? No, we must demand better for ourselves, for our day-to-day lives, and for our connections with other people.
Again, news stories fundamentally, once you receive those facts, may completely merit emotional response, but any emotional response is best created at a pace and with full information that is processed intelligently. This will put you in the driver’s seat for a better life, all around.
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