Challenge: 1 Week Without Any News

How I Reclaimed My Sanity In An Insane News World

The news might be making your brain sick.

U.S. adults consume more than 10 hours of media a day. 10 hours!

Another fun fact, according to esteemed neuroscientist and philosopher Deepak Chopra, the human brain processes 3,000 thoughts per hour. That means each day we are processing roughly 30,000 thoughts on news alone.

Still, people have a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) — like my father.

My father has kept a stack of newspapers next to his La-Z-Boy chair for as long as I can remember. Every night he comes home, grabs a newspaper off the stack, turns on the news, and melts away into that chair. This after spending his entire day listening to talk news radio while pouring concrete footers and framing in houses.

As a kid, I didn’t understand it. Who enjoys listening to a bunch of talking heads 24/7? It seemed like torture to me. He would laugh and say, “one day you’ll read the newspaper too.”

I knew I wouldn’t. I hated those ink laden pages making a mess of everything they touched. The news was for old people. Then I hit my 20s. And like most young adults, I started to care more about the world around me.

I still haven’t picked up an old fashioned newspaper like my Dad claimed I would. But I did start reading and watching the news just as he predicted — mostly online and through social media.

Then something bad happened.

2013 Boston Marathon Bombing

A bunch of Boston Marathon runners had their legs blown off as they neared the finish line. And a bunch fans had their arms blown off as they held up signs to cheer them on. Limbs everywhere. Blood everywhere. It was insane!

Even crazier? I couldn’t stop following it all live on Twitter as it was happening — from people actually in the crowd and the runners themselves! Photos. Videos. First hand accounts.

I was equal parts horrified and mesmerized.

That’s when it hit me. I was exactly like my father, maybe worse. I was consuming news daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute, all thanks to the internet.

Today’s news is nothing like the news of previous decades. First graders weren’t being slaughtered with AR-15s in their classroom. Semi-trucks weren’t being driven over parades of people. Elderly priests weren’t having their throats slit during mass. And black men weren’t being shot by cops at point blank range for doing exactly what was asked of them.

Ok, I’m pretty sure cops have been getting away with murder for years. But thanks to cell phones, it’s now streamed live — for better or worse.

That’s the thing. You can’t escape all this hate, violence, and injustice. It’s in your face 24/7. I’m #woke. And I’m not sure I want to be.

“Don’t let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” — Dalai Lama

I don’t consider myself overly sensitive, but constantly consuming this type of news has a very real effect on people, including me. The New York Times even wrote a piece on it — What Is a Constant Cycle of Violent News Doing to Us?

I stumbled across that article shortly after I began noticing emotional, mental, and even physical changes in myself.

  • I felt angry all the time.
  • I felt helpless all the time.
  • I felt confused all the time.
  • I wasn’t eating well.
  • I wasn’t sleeping well.
  • I wasn’t me.

Sound familiar?

I reached a breaking point after the Nice attacks.

I confessed to my kinda-sorta-not-really-girlfriend that I couldn’t take it anymore! I felt like I was going to seriously lose it. That’s a very scary confession to make out loud, especially to yourself.

She listened lovingly and patiently, as she always does, while I ranted like a lunatic. That’s what living in a news bubble does to us. It turns us into crazy people. And it makes me wonder how in the world my Dad isn’t clinically insane by now? Clearly, he’s stronger than me…or maybe more numb.

The opposite of the fear of missing out, is the the joy of missing out.

The day after the Nice attacks, I knew clearing my head and de-stressing my body was imperative to keeping my sanity. So I went for a run. I played one of my favorite songs, “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers, on repeat for 5 miles.

As the uplifting chorus sang softly in my ears and my feet pounded the pavement to meet the beat, I wondered what it must feel like to have your legs blown off mid-stride.

I thought about all the bombings, beheadings, and mass shootings around the world. I thought about Brock Tuner’s rape victim and watching a compliant Philando Castile bleed out before my very eyes. Over the years, these are the images few of us can get out of our heads. Lovely.

Part of me knows that is a good thing because people need to be fucking shaken to take action. But I also know it’s not healthy to allow a constant flow of violent and hateful news consume our every thought.

So I decided not to watch ANY news for 1 week.

It was harder than I thought! It was nearly impossible to open Twitter or turn on the TV without seeing a breaking news headline splattered across the screen. Like most people, consuming news was part of my daily routine — my bad habit. And like most bad habits, it was tough to break. At times I’d fail. I’d peek.

Overall, the challenge was still a success because it allowed me to take back some of the control I was losing over sanity. It also allowed me to replace a bad habit with a good habit. Instead of consuming news, I now spend an hour every evening reading a book outside and watching the sunset.

Needless to say, it’s the best part of my day.

Join me. Take the challenge.

I’m sharing all of this because I know so many of you are hurting too. You feel angry, frustrated, and powerless. Humans aren’t much different from one another. We all struggle from time to time.

“The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.” — Brene Brown

So I share what has helped me with hopes that it may help you too.

I encourage you to take my 1-week-without-any-news challenge. While the challenge won’t magically fix the world, I promise it will do wonders for your sanity!

Go enjoy a sunset. Regain your focus and your energy. Then regain the fight.

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