If the news was already a circus, now the tent’s on fire and the elephants and lions are running around loose. We’re heading into an election year, there’s presidential impeachment winds a-brewin’, and politics on both shores of the Atlantic have passions running high.
This can’t be good for our health, nor our work habits. If I’m any yardstick, consuming the news is not only stressful but it can also be unproductive.
And my anecdotal evidence is backed up by larger trends. According to the American Psychological Association, “While most adults (95 percent) say they follow the news regularly, 56 percent say that doing so causes them stress.”
A recent study published by researchers from the University of Nebraska revealed that, “Nearly 40% of respondents said that politics was a cause of stress in their lives. About 20% reported losing sleep, feeling fatigued or being depressed owing to politics.”
Even if you don’t want to check the news, odds are you can’t steer clear of it. The TV in your building lobby or favorite restaurant blares headlines and always has some talking head spouting off something or other. Your social media feed is full of opinion and news. We are no longer in the era of getting the news once a day from Walter Kronkite in the evenings. We are drowning in it.
So, what can we do to impose a little discipline on this constant source of anxiety-producing information?
- Remove the Stressful Inputs.
Close those Facebook and Twitter tabs. Turn off notifications for your phone and retire your phone a couple of hours before bedtime and do something relaxing.
Better yet, emulate the days of Walter Kronkite: Check the news once a day. That’s a tall order, especially since news is as pervasive as the air we breathe, but regard it like alcohol: A little bit is nice. Too much of it screws you up. And it’s certainly easy to get addicted to it and let it manipulate your emotions.
- Hold Yourself Accountable.
In this video I recorded, I demonstrate how I use my daily planner to enforce exposure to the news no more than three times a day. That seems to be a good starting point for me, but let’s see how this goes. It’s not going to be easy, but hopefully with enough practice and discipline I’ll get it down to once a day.
- Realize You’ll Never Change Someone’s Mind.
When it comes to discussing the news with friends, family, or really, just about anyone, I personally follow Joshua’s advice in WarGames: “The only winning move is not to play.”
People are in their camps. They have their facts. They have the sources they trust and those they don’t. No one is going to win a political argument. As the business coach Dan Sullivan says, “Our eyes only see and our ears only hear what our brain is looking for.” In other words, if people are presented with evidence that doesn’t fit with their world view, they’ll discard it.
- Understand and Sidestep Trolling.
Trolling is a form of vitriolic commentary that aims to rile up emotions on purpose. You see these all the time in the comments section in news articles and social media relating to current events.
As Wikipedia describes them, a troll is “a person who starts quarrels or upsets people on the Internet to distract and sow discord by posting inflammatory and digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community…whether for the troll’s amusement or a specific gain.”
If your emotions get manipulated by a troll, you played right into their trap. On the flip side, the power of trolls is easy to eliminate. All you have to do is spot them, recognize what they are up to, and their power is gone. Troll spotting is a key and powerful way to conquer strong, negative emotions when you’re online.