It might surprise you that as a student journalist, there are many days where I don’t want to read the news. If that also sounds like you — journalist or not — this is my way of saying you’re not alone.
But as citizens of an increasingly globalized society, we have to acknowledge what’s happening around us. And that includes the pain and suffering that’s often easier to ignore. That’s an exhausting task, though. With jobs to work, meetings to attend and relatives to call, filling our cups with the travesties of the world leaves little room — mentally and emotionally — for us to be fully present in our daily responsibilities. Our cup overflows faster than we anticipate. But there are ways to keep your sanity while remaining informed about current events.
One simple strategy is goal-setting. Think of it this way: Suppose you haven’t been very active lately and you want to improve your fitness. You don’t start by going to the gym six times a week for three hours a day. Instead, you start running a mile twice a week or doing 20 push ups before bed. In other words, you set a manageable goal for yourself because you know you can achieve it. The same goes for reading the news. If you try to read eight New York Times articles a day after years of only skimming the headlines, you will burn yourself out very quickly. So start with an article a day (or every other day) and work yourself up from there.
But maybe you already read the news regularly and you’re finding it hard to keep that habit going. Say you’re trying to focus in biology class and all you can seem to think about are ongoing wars and climate degradation. What do you do then? You change the way you consume news. That may be as simple as only reading the news at a specific time each day — compartmentalizing so as to stay informed but not get distracted from what you need to get done.
Or you might expand what you read. If it feels like you’re only ever reading the breaking news thread, branch out to learn what’s going on in the worlds of music, food and theater. Reading culture and opinion writing are great ways to keep your ear pressed to the world without getting too knee-deep in the news when you don’t want to.
Exercising media literacy will also help. If you read a particularly upsetting headline or make your way through a tragic story, read articles from other news outlets to ensure you’re seeing more than one perspective. Too often, the news feels like something that happens to us — a constant barrage of negative information. But if we practice discernment and a healthy amount of skepticism — trying to understand the news, not just absorb it — reading up on current events can actually clarify rather than destabilize.
But more than anything, you can avoid news burnout by giving yourself enough time to process the information you take in. Keeping up with your hobbies — rock climbing, piano, sketching or whatever else — can help keep you grounded when the state of the world can make you feel so destabilized. Your hobbies aren’t a distraction (or at least they shouldn’t be), but a way of giving yourself the time to recharge and reset. That way, you don’t feel locked in the cycle of working and trying to keep up with what’s going on.
But no matter which strategy you use, it doesn’t do any good to ignore what’s happening in the world. There is no badge of honor to wear for solely paying attention to what’s right in front of you. And while some might think that because there’s little or nothing they can do to change the situation, and that they are doing some quiet service by claiming ignorance to what’s happening around them, this is a false idea.
In fact, the best first thing we can do in an era and in a country where we have such broad access to news is to actually engage with it. And that makes it all the more important to keep our heads on straight.
Riley Martinez is Copy Editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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