Like the rest of the world, I have been riding the wave of uncertainty, feeling anxious and stressed while desperately trying to keep things in perspective and not go into full-blown panic mode. Unlike the rest of the world, I am not glued to the doomsday news cycle getting filled with fear and dread.
Several years ago, I opted to forgo mainstream news in favor of curated information through a trusted network of friends, bloggers, and podcasts. This helps me avoid information overload and the misinformation, opinion, and “fake news” that results from 24 hours news cycles and the burden of having to fill the infinite cyberspace. Author Ryan Holiday writes about this idea in his article, Why Everyone Should Watch Less News on Medium.com. He quotes the CEO of the American Psychological Association, Arthur C. Evans, Jr.,
“Understanding that we all still need to be informed about the news, it’s time to make it a priority to be thoughtful about how often and what type of media we consume.”
Evans’ remarks were regarding a report from 2017 that revealed 95% of American adults followed the news regularly despite believing it caused them stress and over two-thirds believing that the media blows things out of proportion.
His comment is even more relevant today.
The fear-driven news cycle is spiraling out of control. We fear that if we stop watching, we’ll miss some crucial, life-saving bit of information that if discovered even minutes later would somehow be too late to digest.
While in reality, facts and truth have no expiration date.
But unless you’re a statistician or a scientist, it is not relevant for you to stay abreast of the number of cases in each state or the number of deaths worldwide. While talking to my sister yesterday, she told me that the news reported we may be facing this crisis for another 18 months.
This kind of information does nothing but induce more anxiety and uninformed conjecture about the future of the world. Let the experts sort these numbers out and make the responsible and intelligent findings once there is enough data to do so responsibly. In the meantime, our job is to follow the recommendations and take care of ourselves, our families, and our communities.
The Benefit of Curation
The value in having a curated list of reliable information sources is that when challenges arise, I know where to turn. The information I am consuming is relevant, prudent, and focused on giving practical and philosophical advice for coping with the uncertainty that underlies the anxiety we are all feeling. Rather than feeling helpless and overwhelmed from repetitive “breaking news”, I am feeling heartened and inspired by the wealth of support and generosity that my network is providing.
This guidance and support is the original intent of journalism and news. It was to provide a service for the community to stay safe, informed, and included.
Nowadays most reporting does the opposite. It makes us anxious, misinformed, and divided. It feeds into our ego of needing to have the latest information and to be in the know. Ryan Holiday writes about this ego feeding frenzy in his article Seriously, You- Okay-We Need to Stop Watching the News.
We want to be in the club of the elite, smart, informed intelligent, compassionate, interesting people. We don’t want to be on the side of the ignorant people or the people who have tuned out.
He follows this up with a quote from Stoic philosopher, Epictetus,
“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid with regard to external things.”
He is not advocating ignorance but rather a conscious choice of what to focus on and seeing a bigger picture through the endless headline ticker tape of developing news. Getting perspective on the minutiae that consumes us is what is necessary for weathering the storm of this pandemic we are facing. Choose wisdom over speculation. Choose thought over regurgitation. Choose curation over unfiltered developing news stories.
If you’ve been lost in the 24 hour news cycle, you may not know how to begin curating your news. Not to worry. I’m going to share the resources I am using that are helping me to remain calm, informed, and resilient during this difficult time.
This is Dan Harris’ podcast about meditation. Right now, he is doing special podcasts addressing the COVID-19 pandemic specifically. He talks to health and meditation experts who give practical advice on dealing with the stresses we’re all facing right now. He is also doing a daily live meditation followed by Q&A to address any of your pressing questions on this topic. Find that on the 10 Percent Happier website every weekday at 3pm EST/12pm PST.
The 10 Percent Happier website is offering free guided meditations addressing issues of anxiety and stress around this topic. They are offering free access to their meditation app to all health care workers right now.
This podcast is hosted by author and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin and her sister, Elizabeth Craft. Their Bonus Episode: Coping During COVID-19 — How to Stay Happier and Calmer in Difficult Times addresses practical ways to manage stress, stay productive while being stuck at home, and keep an exercise routine in this disruptive environment.
She and her sister are also doing daily Instagram Live sessions to answer questions and keep people connected.
This is neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris’ podcast, where he interviews experts from varied fields and subjects. He has recorded at least 2 very informative and prudent podcasts about the COVID-19 pandemic with experts in the health and science fields. Although he recently made his podcast subscription based, he has released these two freely for anyone to listen to as a public service.
This is Dave Asprey’s podcast on bio-hacking. He recorded a short special episode specifically about how you can target fighting off the corona virus using various supplements and dietary avoidances.
Tim Ferriss interviews experts and celebrities from all walks of life. His latest covers the COVID-19 pandemic in his conversation with mindfulness teacher Jack Kornfield. They address the question of achieving calm amidst the chaos.
Blogs, Articles, and Newsletters.
Not only is her podcast is a wonderful resource, but she has written a number of blog posts concerning this topic. She has an abundance of practical ways to manage stress and weather the storm by building resilience and staying productive. Here’s a few of her latest:
Katie Wells is the founder of Wellness Mama. She is a mom of 6 with a background in nutrition and journalism. She focuses on healthy, non-toxic living in a holistic, practical and functional way. Her blog posts are medically reviewed by her team of experts and she synthesizes information into comprehendible terms and actionable advice.
She has written a great article titled My Common-Sense Guide to Viruses and Pandemics (for Moms). This is filled with great health information about how to prepare without panicking. She writes a twice weekly newsletter that is filled with resources, recipes, tips, and discounts on useful, healthy products.
Author Ryan Holiday wrote a fantastic article on the importance of leadership during challenging times. He points to the leadership of Marcus Aurelius and what we can learn from his example way back in 165 CE. It’s helpful to gain perspective and understanding that human beings have endured crises like these before and we will endure again.
Ryan writes thoughtful and well-researched articles and books. He focuses on timeless thoughts and ideas, mainly concentrating on the Stoic philosophers. His newsletter is a great addition to anyone’s curated media library. You can also follow him right here on Medium.
TV and Film Editor Zack Arnold writes a great article for anyone in the entertainment industry (like me) who is dealing with fears and anxieties about the future of our work and what we should be doing with our time. He and I will be hosting weekly Facebook Live sessions on Fridays at 1pm for anyone in the industry to address questions and to keep us all networking and connected during this challenging time.
The Joy of Movement: How exercise helps us find happiness, hope, connection, and courage by Kelly McGonical
This book is a love letter to exercise as described by the author. It is filled with research, data, anecdotes, and personal stories about how humans are built to endure and how movement makes us stronger, happier, and more resilient. If you are looking for proof of human strength and connection, this book is undeniably it. It is an inspiring read anytime, but especially in times like these.
Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday
Any book by Ryan is a great read, but this one is particularly relevant now. He draws upon Stoic and Buddhist philosophy as well as current and historic figures throughout history to demonstrate how stillness and contemplation are crucial for human progress, individual happiness, and resilience.
Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler
This book outlines a number of practical, relevant, and realistic solutions to the myriad of pressing problems in the world such as overpopulation, food, energy, water, etc. This book delivers hope and optimism in the face of overwhelming problems that otherwise feel hopeless. It is exactly the feeling we need to cultivate right now.
The Diary of Young Girl by Anne Frank
Another shining example of the resilience of the human spirit in challenging times. It is also another useful perspective shift to see the world through someone else’s eyes and to see the lessons we can learn from history.
The Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering by Bikkhu Bodhi
This book outlines the Buddhist teachings on the problem of suffering and the Buddha’s path to end suffering. It is not a religious tome, nor does it require belief or faith in any doctrine or dogma. It examines the Buddha’s description of the eightfold path to end suffering and offers practices to ease the suffering that we all face.
There are so many useful and hopeful ideas and resources out in the world right now. We need to fill our minds with this wisdom. This is not to deny or put on rose-colored glasses. This is a serious and volatile situation. We need to stay informed without panicking or retreating. We need to remain calm, engaged, and present. This is a nearly impossible task when we are glued to the endless news cycle.
Now is the time to be with family, practice mindfulness, and come together as a community, as a nation, as a species. This is a worldwide pandemic and the first time in history that we can connect across the globe in real-time to experience this together. We can learn from each other. We can empathize and understand. We can reach out through technology and find strength in our human connection.
Want a happier life? Click here for my Happiness in Training Starter Kit to get your practice started today.
Debby Germino is a freelance tv/film editor who enjoys writing about mindfulness, health, and strategies for happier living. She writes a bi-weekly newsletter and is open to comments and suggestions on any of these topics.