When No News is Actually Good News.
I don’t know about you, but I’m downright exhausted from all the overwhelmingly bad news flowing in from the media lately.
Never ending bad news crashing against my skull like a relentless tsunami.
These past few weeks have exhausted many South Africans as we watched one of our most beloved sporting icons charged with murdering his girlfriend. The media circus took us to new heights as we were inundated with minute by minute updates of the four day bail hearing. Our minds were reeling in shock as we grieved a beautiful young life, taken too early.
Then the horror of rape. Everywhere! Three little girls (sisters) brutally raped and murdered in India. A 100-year-old Granny raped in South Africa. A two-year-old raped just last week. A planet drowning in gender cruelty, screaming that it must stop!
Nuclear threats, senseless wars, racial hatred, a global religion rocked by a resignation, bribery, corruption, floods, blizzards, shootouts in Vegas, meat muddles in Europe, cancer, HIV, children dying daily, stabbings, hatred, murder………. enough!
Time to Unplug.
It’s just too much for any one human mind to take in. There is even some evidence that being exposed to too much bad news can lead to a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Watching too much bad news seems to affect many people negatively, especially children.
I must admit that I’m feeling rather traumatized given the events of the past couple of weeks. I usually don’t watch the news regularly and generally keep my social media input limited to Facebook and one news site. However, as the week progressed, I found myself literally hooked to any news of the Oscar Pistorius story. Wherever I went, people were glued to their phones or television screens. Friday afternoon reached fever pitch as a live audio feed was broadcast with the judge’s bail decision. Any social interaction centered around the tragedy with people often taking very firm, if not aggressive stands on the issue.
I started to feel intensely agitated. I went to sleep thinking about Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp. I woke up thinking about them. I felt dejected, let down, angry, sad and so much more. When I spoke to other people, they echoed the same sentiments.
The Addiction of Our Age
I realize what happened. I got sucked in. I forgot about my boundaries. Before I knew it, I was twittering and tweeting and following the whole story (and others) with an appetite which can only be likened to a ravenous hyena on Meat Free Monday.
The news is too graphic, too readily available; it’s too much for most of us, especially for sensitive people like myself. Yet, there I was along with everyone else checking my phone feverishly for updates every few minutes.
Social media along with news updates are addictive. Ask anyone who has to live without Facebook for a few days. Talk to a person whose Twitter account has been deactivated. Ever see anyone separated from their phone for a few agonizing hours? The obsessive need to know dominates our lives to a frightening extent.
Time to Take Stock.
For many people this is not a problem and they seem thrive on a constant stream of news. However, for others this instant, overflowing, sensationalized and depressing steam of information can be very distressing.
I need to unplug and take stock of what I’m doing with my day. I need to reconnect with my body and my soul. I need to remember my priorities.
6 Ways to Beat Media Overload
I’d like to share what works for me when I find myself getting anxious and upset about the state of the world and the future:
Unplug from as many social media sites as you feel able to. Take stock of how much time you’re spending a day on them. Stop watching the news completely if you can. Otherwise, limit it to one news broadcast a day. Believe it or not, it will be the same tomorrow, just different places and faces.
2. Tell People
I have a friend who, when I start dishing on the latest horror story, tells me very politely and lovingly that she does not want to know. She found years ago that this strategy works for her and most people respect it. Tell people that you will be taking a hiatus from the news for a while because you are finding it too stressful and upsetting. When people start discussing the morbidity of daily life, remember that you have a choice here and can excuse yourself and walk away for a while.
3. Establish a new routine
If, like me, you check the news and Facebook as soon as you wake up, it’s time to think out of the box and start doing things differently. Our delightfully fuzzy, half asleep brains do not need to be woken up like that every morning. If you enjoy reading the latest scandal or political intrigue over a cigarette or cup of coffee, it’s time to develop a new habit.
Firstly, stop smoking; it’s going to kill you for heaven’s sake! Secondly, switch to decaf or green tea and teach yourself to sit. Just sit and be. In the moment. Relishing the taste of the tea, gazing out of the window, reconnecting with your brain and your body and your precious soul.
Find new ways to connect with yourself. Go for a walk at lunchtime. Read a real book on the train, not the newspaper. Have a conversation with someone about something meaningful and beautiful.
You knew that this was going to get plugged in somewhere! It was inevitable!
Yes, exercise is a magical and miraculous cure for so many of the ailments of the 21st century.
Walking, swimming, jogging, dancing… you name it. It takes your mind off your problems and induces that tingly, feel good emotion that many people crave and get addicted to. Not in excess of course, because then you’re just replacing one addiction with another.
Yoga is my drug of choice. I’m a wannabe yogi but I find that learning to stay connected to my body for over an hour is a marvellous way of leaving the world outside. There’s no disputing that moving your body and taking time out to nurture it are wonderful ways of beating stress.
Taking time to sit quietly or walk mindfully is probably the greatest gift you can give yourself. Yet sadly, many people can’t or won’t do this because they are scared of being silent.
You are a wonderful and unique creation of a human being. There is nothing to fear inside yourself. Your soul longs to nurture you and be given a voice. Stop filling your days with noise and take 15-20 minutes a day to listen to what your heart has to say.
There are meditation groups and a plethora of books available on meditation. In all honesty, it really entails sitting quietly and being aware of all that you feel. Let your thoughts go past, don’t get caught up in them. A mantra can be very helpful.
Even just sitting, admiring a sunset, walking in the park or being aware of your breath are forms of meditation.
Try it, everyday. You may really like it!
One of my favorite pastimes in the whole world. Reading. Diving into the fresh, crisp pages of a new book or returning to a much loved, well thumbed old friend.
Reading takes you away from the madness and the mundane. You learn. You escape. You grow. You get inspired. You laugh. You cry. You sigh. You escape.
Reading a book is a cure for a gloomy day and a anxious heart.
Walking through the silent, musty rows of a library are nothing less than walking on holy ground for me. The hearts and souls that have been bared on those pages. The journeys that the authors take us on. The changes that get wrought in lives from reading the words of another person’s journey. The healing. The belonging and the feeling of finally being understood. Pure bliss …..
No one said it would be easy
Do yourself a favor and run a hot bath, light some candles and soak blissfully to de-stress for a while. Then climb under your crisp, welcoming bed covers and pick up your favourite book. Sip tea whilst you read. Wallow in the silence and the beauty of the moment you have created.
Even if you only get to do this once a week for starters, that’s good enough. Actively work towards being in control of what you see and hear. You’re the boss. It won’t be easy at first, but each day you’ll master the art and before you know it, you’ll be enrolling for evening classes, renewing your library subscription, practicing yoga and being a much happier, more relaxed person.
Try it! I dare you!
What works for you?
Those are just a few of my ways of staying sane. I’d love to hear what you do when you need to disconnect. Let me know what your tried and tested secrets are. Maybe together we can all start a nurturing revolution!
Dawn Meysel hails from South Africa. Wife, Mother of Twins, lover of books, her bed, her family, her two Zen Masters (her cats) and chocolate. She’s astounded by love and grace, appalled at hatred and injustice. Intrepid seeker of Truth, student of the soul and spirituality, counselor, friend. She’s part of a nation clawing its way to restoration, forgiveness and healing. There’s still a long way to go but she’s excited to be alive at this time with SA’s rainbow nation, cultural and religious diversity and really good, funky food! She’s a novice student of yoga, a vegetarian, animal rights activist and non flakey in the nicest way! She lives by two mottos, “This too shall pass” and “Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.”
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Ed: Brianna Bemel