The amount of information we are absorbing as digital users is astronomical compared to what our minds actually evolved to process. You need a break.
More and more, friends of mine are deleting various social media apps from their phones in order to manage where their focus is going, not to mention their mood.
Stress makes you stupid. The body doesn’t know the difference between where you are and where Trump is. It doesn’t know the difference between imagined future suffering of yourself and others, and what’s going on now, right here. For the body whatever you think and feel is real. And happening right now. – Anouk Brack, Outsmarting Basic Instinct.
I’m not one to say that the digital age is going to destroy us – I firmly believe we simply have more tools to use and it’s up to us to use them wisely. However, using them wisely is certainly a challenge in a world where you can feel out of the loop if you haven’t checked Facebook for 48 hours.
In addition, this is 2017. There’s a quite a lot of significant political change afoot, and people who may otherwise have avoided the news beyond checking headlines now might feel compelled to follow each ground-breaking update and take some kind of action to fight for their corner. So we are loathe not to be plugged-in.
However. We can choose our response.
Here are five steps to create inner calm in a digital or news storm:
- Do not watch television news. Television news is a drama programme. News Readers are trained to report in a dramatic tone of voice. There is a dramatic theme tune (cue BBC drums), plus lighting, and selected clips, all designed to create that adrenalin rush. This is also known as a fight or flight response and it’s DREADFUL for your body and mental processing power – especially last thing at night. Browse headlines online or in a real newspaper and do not get sucked in to manufactured drama.
- Breathe through bad news. Unless you are a world leader, an immigration lawyer, related to someone in peril or wanted by the police, there is nothing you can do right at this minute. Do not send a signal to your body that you are in a life threatening situation (fight or flight again) by allowing yourself to be enraged. There are many things you could do with your passion, your commitment, your anger, your skills… but you do not need to figure it all out in the heat of the moment.
- Ration exposure to news or social media. And stick to it. Do you really need to check the news more than once a day? How involved do you personally need to be with social media every day? Try once a day (That’s hard for me!). If you start to feel twitchy, bring yourself back to the present and enjoy the calm, safety and prosperity that likely is your immediate reality. If you’re bored enough to want to check social media, it’s because no one’s trying to destroy you right now, or you’re happily engaged with something, and that’s a wonderful, luxurious thing. Maybe use such moments to strategize how to be the change you wish to see in the world.
- Friends. Keep digital communications with friends and family on apps such as regular email, text or WhatsApp so you’re not flooded with other people’s posts and noise when just checking messages. Communications and contact are great. Many on Facebook and Twitter just shout into the void and this is not good for you (unless enjoying a mass scream which can be therapeutic!).
- Gratitude. Pay attention to what you have in the physical world. Do you have a loved one you could call tonight? Yes, like an actual phone call (give your eyes a rest!). Have some real time interaction if you’re lucky to have someone to interact with. Reach out to favourite humans because for many of us across the world, most of our waking life is a furious stream of antagonistic information (divide and conquer) and the only real antidote is to connect, meaningfully and kindly. And this is when we find out how rich we are, how empowered we are, and how strong we are.
If you need a little more guidance in terms of becoming more centered, I recommend Anouk Brack’s blog on Outsmarting Basic Instinct.