How to actively participate without your brain exploding
It feels like every time we try to take a breath, another crack appears in the thin ice we all feel like we’re standing on. Some of the cracks are small, some are already full holes and chunks of ice are starting to float away. The point is, the amount of bad in our daily existence just seems never ending. And if you’re like me, you’re struggling between how to stay informed, what you can do about everything, and how to not just give up and crawl into a hole.
We all have been through the cycle. From fists pumping high in the air and loud voices, to tired and defeated and shrugging. We’re equal parts exhausted and becoming almost desensitized. After all, if the news is horrible every day, eventually “horrible” starts to become the expected status quo.
First, I want to share an article written by writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit, where she talks about living in dark times and what we can do.
Taking Control of Your Media and News Exposure
There are studies currently being done on the actual effects of media and news fatigue. Too much exposure to the news can make us tired, worsen our mental health state, and create physical symptoms of illness.
Erin Loechner suggests that rather than blindly consuming, you go into your news consumption with a purpose in mind. What’s your end goal? Is what you’re clicking on going to actually inform you or is it clickbait that will just upset you? If your purpose is to stay informed on what you need to act on (and act out about), make sure your consumption leads to action – use what you’re reading and hearing to vote with your dollars, call your representatives, and start meaningful conversations. She also suggests experiencing and digesting the news in a community – with friends or family, instead of alone with only your own thoughts.
Two other things Erin talks about are perspective and balance. Make sure you’re getting well-rounded information from different sources – including real people on the ground. A great example of this is when we first started seeing the posts about the family separations and missing children. There was a lot of misinformation and old information mixed in with the new and the accurate. Thankfully, in addition to the articles everyone was sharing, some activists and legal workers who had been working with these situations were able to share insight and help clear up confusion. That way we could all be mad about the right things and know where to put our voices, dollars, and energy instead of screaming back and forth about wrong details. Dr. Ashley Maltz also recommends curating your news sources carefully for unbiased reporting, because news sites are still running a business, and many outlets definitely play up conflict, scandal, and disaster.
As for balance, Erin suggests making the effort to look for the good news. It’s out there, though it may be harder to find. Erin even suggests if you can’t find anything good, maybe it’s time to go out and make some good news yourself! Dr. Maltz also advocates for looking for the good news, and reminds us that MSN even has a page dedicated to it.
Another thought is, rather than just scrolling through all news every day, when there are issues or incidents of particular concern set keyword alerts or do searches for those. This will help you stay informed on relevant topics without getting overwhelmed on minutiae that you don’t need to be consuming at the moment.
How to disconnect and disengage
In today’s world of smartphones and apps, it’s easy to fall prey to constantly refreshing our newsfeeds and checking every time we get an alert on our devices.
Lindsey Holmes suggests getting strategic about notifications, limiting your time and exposure. Emily Long also encourages new routines, such as not looking at your phone or the news for the first 30 minutes you’re awake. Let your brain boot all the way up before you dump more anxiety in it! Dr. Maltz advises against news and screen time right before bed. You don’t want the last thing you do before you’re supposed to rest to be filling your brain with negativity. We need restful sleep more than ever right now.
Both also advise taking breaks and briefly disconnecting. Set media-free times in your day and in your week. The news will still be there in an hour. It’s okay to not be attached to it 24/7. Turn off notifications, set down your phone. Take a walk, and take some deep breaths. Remind yourself of the good people in your life, and find solace and/or an outlet in your art.
Lindsey Holmes also suggests keeping your therapist if you already have one and getting one if you don’t. Having someone to talk to as the mental snowball turns into an avalanche is a must!
Dr. Maltz reminds us that on Facebook especially, if you have friends or family that are posting things that are stressing you out or upsetting, but you don’t feel you can “unfriend” them, you can use the unfollow option to just not see their posts on your stream. I, personally, am at the point that if someone is posting b.s. content and are not willing to have rational conversations about it after more than one attempt, I just unfriend. That relationship isn’t worth sacrificing the small bits of sanity I have left!
Curate your streams and who you follow to include both news and positive things that make you feel good, make you laugh, or give you hope. Don’t ignore what’s going in, but don’t force yourself to drown in it.
Need some loving and awesome content on your news feed? May I suggest following Lin Manuel Miranda if you aren’t already?
What I’m doing:
- Following a balance of news sources and feeds that post uplifting content, and constantly reviewing/cleaning up my lists.
- Researching before reacting to make sure I have correct information.
- Unfollowing and unfriending as needed for my sanity.
- Setting times of day for media consumption and limiting time on media.
- Taking media breaks and stepping away for longer periods when I just can’t anymore.
What I’m not doing:
- Watching nightly news or going straight to scrolling through major news sites.
When you want to DO something and can do it
Resources and Tools for Resisting
- Here’s a link to a resource list of organizations and articles about what we can do to resist.
- Indivisible is a “Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda”. It offers news, information, and guides for individuals and groups to find opportunities for resistance and advocacy.
- The Resistance Manual is a site that aims to provide truthful and actionable information for those who want to participate in Democracy.
- Move On has links to campaigns, petitions, and events.
Actions you can take
- Attend rallies, marches, protests, town halls! Any event you can. Be seen and be heard.
- Volunteer in your community and/or speak out locally.
- Join community groups (check sites like MeetUp and the ones referenced above)
- Vote in ALL elections – local, small, big, mid-term, anything.
Action for when you have less energy/spoons
If you’re like me and have phone anxiety, or you just have to do something but can’t go out and attend rallies and marches (due to health or work or any reason), or even if you ARE doing other things to, I strongly encourage the use of ResistBot
Resist Bot can contact your elected officials for you without having to call them yourself. You can use it every day. It not only lets you write your elected officials, but can suggest topics, look up town halls, send daily reminders and opportunities for volunteering.
What I’m doing:
- Using ResistBot as much as possible.
- Sharing and signal boosting information.
- Looking for small, local opportunities to join.
What I’m not doing:
I haven’t been to as many events and marches as my husband has. Part of that is because our closest events are in Los Angeles, and usually gigantic and too much for my anxiety. I know I can’t handle events and crowds over a certain size without panic. I will, however, signal boost the heck out of events, and look for opportunities that I CAN handle.
There is, frankly, a lot of shit in the world. But there is also good. And there are a lot of people raising their voices. Remember that you’re human, that’s it’s okay to be upset, it’s okay to be depressed, it’s okay to be not okay. If you can fight, fight. If you just can’t, that’s okay too! You can’t save the world if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Take small breaks, take big breaks. Rest and recharge. Spend quality time with loved ones. This is going to continue for the long haul. We can take turns. We can help each other. We can hold each other up. Stay informed, but don’t destroy yourself in the process. Learn your limits, set boundaries for yourself, and most importantly, stick to them. Self care is more important now than ever.
Side note: When I decided on this week’s topic, and started writing and researching, it didn’t even process that today would be the 4th of July. Accidental or not, it’s appropriate timing.