My fellow women in midlife, I’ve got a treat for you! I’m so happy to be part of the very cool Women’s Midlife Revolution Summit. In my interview, I talk about how to get out of overwhelm and I debut my secret strategy to have more connected, authentic, and satisfying conversations with others (because it’s really hard to get out of overwhelm if you don’t feel heard and understood by the people around you). I hope you’ll sign up (you can do that here); my interview goes live this Friday, 10/26! I also know many of the other speakers and they are all really wise, really generous, and really fun, so I hope you’ll check them out too. And now, for our regularly scheduled programming….
I mentioned last week that I shared in a private Facebook group that I was feeling upset about the state of affairs in America and around the world. I got many responses that were supportive, a couple that were combative, and one that I want to talk about today. One person responded, “Don’t watch the damn news!” Then she went on to say said I should only watch uplifting videos.
She was echoing a common commandment in the natural health/self-help world that says you should abstain from watching the news: Dr. Andrew Weil has been talking about going on periodic news fasts for at least 15 years; retreat centers like Omega and Kripalu don’t have any access to newspapers or TV news programs. The idea is that news tends to only be upsetting without offering any constructive outlets to address those feelings of upset or make change; it perpetuates stress and when you’re stressed, there’s not a lot you can do to help others.
And yet, it’s hard to help people if you don’t truly know what’s happening. I don’t know how helpful an ostrich is to any of the other ostriches if its head is the sand, you know what I’m saying?
In my work with coaching clients and in my own life, the first step to making any kind of meaningful change is to raise your awareness of what’s really happening. It’s not always a particularly fun step, but it’s damn sure important, because you can’t change a habit you don’t know you have, and you can’t address a problem that you don’t really understand.
I get that having a 24-hour news station blaring in the background all day long is anxiety-producing. I’m not advocating that. But I also think the days of blithely ignoring the news are, for me and for the many people I talk to who are concerned about where our country is headed, over. What the world needs now is people who are engaged and open to seeing beyond the tip of their own nose and I just don’t think that’s possible if all you do is watch baby animal videos.
As with so many things, the trick is to find a balance. When you find yourself scrolling, scrolling, scrolling through social media for hours a day, clicking on links and reading every article and analyzing everyone’s take, you are out of balance. (Been there! And I can promise you, it doesn’t feel good.) After all, problems aren’t solved solely with the intellect; insight, intuition, wisdom, prior experience and collaboration are all crucial too, and you can’t access any of these other key ingredients if you’re down a news wormhole.
It’s kind of like eating broccoli—eating some is good for you, eating a ton will just make you gassy, and eating none will leave you nutritionally deficient. How much is just right will depend on you and what you care about.
How do you balance it?
- Find a couple sources you trust and check in with them no more than daily.
- When you feel your shoulders start to hunch, or your heart start to feel heavy, or your eyes start to cross, turn the device off and go do something completely different.
- Know that there’s a time and a place for everything, including over-consumption and abstinence. For example, I think it’s wholly appropriate to increase your news consumption around the mid-term elections—I will certainly be watching the returns and will probably stay up later than I normally do! After that, I’m guessing a news fast will feel pretty good for a few days or maybe longer. At some point I’ll go back to my regular routine: reading the paper on Sunday, checking the headlines in the morning, and listening to one or two news-y podcasts a week.
- Identify some of your own personal clues that you’re too invested and it’s taking a toll—you find yourself checking headlines compulsively (like, several times a day), or scrolling until your eyes blur—and then use them as a reminder to step. Away.
- I love the Self Control app, which you can download to your desktop and make a list of sites you want to block your access to for a certain amount of time, whether that’s 15 minutes or 8 hours. It helps when you can’t really help yourself.
To watch something that will make you feel good about where you’re at, I recommend the Women’s Midlife Revolution Summit! I also loved watching RBG, the documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The woman went to Harvard Law School in the 1950s when she had a 14-month-old, and made the Law Review her second year! She will inspire you; it’s streaming on Hulu.)