How to Survive News Overwhelm

woman holding a smart phone. She is sad and overwhelmed. Pink background.
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It’s like we are all plugged into the same giant power outlet. Any fluctuation in the central supply affects all of us.

Ancient sages and enlightened beings tried telling us that thousands of years ago. We never listened. But of course they were talking about the invisible life force that binds us in higher, deeper ways and not the internet. Or global economy. Or wars. Or pandemics.

But we know better now. Our connection is no longer invisible or metaphysical. It’s there. We can all see it. I am nobody’s sage yet even I can see that we are all connected — in good ways, terrible ways and …unseen, unimaginable ways.

It’s like we are all plugged into the same giant power outlet. Any fluctuation in the central supply affects all of us.

Money, progress, politics, pandemics and wars now belong to everyone. If not directly, then emotionally. Raw, basic, human emotions like fear for the future are now so easy to spread far and wide. Everything feels close to home, even when it is not. Because that’s how we function now.

Every individual experience and emotion now has the potential of becoming a raging, howling, collective storm that can crash on any one of our heads if we are sufficiently compromised or mentally vulnerable.

The probability of any of us getting psychologically affected is equal. And high. If not today, then tomorrow. So we must learn to cope and keep our mind space healthy. Despite the difficulties.

Every crisis — personal, collective or global needs to be followed by a period of rest and recovery, so that we can decompress, re-energize and be alive to ourselves and useful to others again. Otherwise we may just be adding to the big bag of problems.

But are there ways to cope with the non-stop disruptions that our collective state of mind brings into our life?

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Frankly, I don’t know. Like you, I struggle. I filter. I resist. I hide. I succumb. And occasionally I lose balance. But I know this much (from trial and error). Some lines need to be drawn. For sanity and wellbeing. So I borrow a concept from Software engineering called abstraction. I abstract so I can survive and self manage in a world where too much is happening all the time.

“Abstraction is the purposeful suppression, or hiding, of some details of a process or artifact, in order to bring out more clearly other aspects, details, or structure

So how do I try to help myself when the whole world seems to be talking, thinking and feeling the same things? Here are some things I do. If it’s helpful, try it. I don’t claim any authority on life. Or humanity. I am just another living thing. A practitioner. Just like you. But try it anyway.

Abstract, abstract, abstract.

I only skim through news headlines. No details. No visuals. No videos. Headlines and key ideas are more than enough for me to know what’s going on. I don’t need to know every detail of everything going on in the world.

Not because I don’t care. But because I care more for those whose life I directly influence. They need me to be my best possible version. Including myself.

Regulate the frequency of information intake

I only check in with the world news once a day. And not even that if I am already overwhelmed by my day. If something big and important is happening in the world, someone will let me know. Sometimes the very air around vibrates violently with the frequency of whatever is on top of everyone’s mind. It’s almost impossible to miss anything urgent or important.

Run away from the world at regular intervals

It used to be called “living under the rock”. People seem to fear it. But I don’t mind it at all. In fact, I practice this regularly, intentionally and I find it useful. I don’t have to click on every post, engage with every story, look at every picture or watch every video. I don’t have to prove to anyone that I care about the world and human race in general.

Limit the scope.

Yes, our world is more global than ever. Yes we are more connected than ever. But we still have to live our daily lives, go to work, look after self and family, cook food, sleep, exercise, be creative. These are not optional to any of us. This is survival. And sanity. So we all have to choose our battles. We have to sometimes limit our scope of influence. To be more effective and useful in the long run.

Replace vague and uncontrolled emotions with practical action

I know someone who always feels sorry for everyone and exaggerates everything so much in her head that it keeps her constantly fatigued. She thinks it’s empathy. But when it comes right down to it, she is always so exhausted that she doesn’t actually do anything useful to help the people she empathises with. Instead, her constant emotional frenzy and fatigue is a burden on those around her. I use her example as a constant reminder on what not to do.

I prefer one or two solid actions that can be of practical use. When I can and if I want to. Otherwise, I try to accept my limitations and scope and live my own life as non-disruptively as possible. It’s the next best thing I can do. I am okay with that.

But if you prefer responding fiercely and voluntarily to all things big and small around you, at least make sure you take breaks at regular intervals. Learn to retreat and live your own individual life every so often. It’s important for mental health. This way, you can sustain your energy. And in a world like ours, the next worrisome thing seems to be just round the corner. We all seem to be taking turns. So when you can, take a beat. Rest. Don’t expect yourself to be invincible. Accepting our emotional limit really helps.

Laugh. Smile. It’s not a crime.

I use comedy shows extensively these days. They help me immensely. One can do serious work and think deeply and yet laugh and smile. It’s not mutually exclusive. Life is hard enough. We might as well cope as best as we can without constant guilt.

In any case, engaging non-stop with the world and feeling guilty when you can’t are not real substitutes to actual work.

It’s probably better to be honest within and get on with life — as decently and unobtrusively as possible.

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Jayashree

Jayashree

Hello! I write on how to learn, grow, communicate and lead. I am no authority. I write as I learn about life. And I am always learning. I live in Berlin, DE.