The world feels so chaotic and uncertain right now that we all have a responsibility to listen, to take notice and to do what we can. However, we also all have a responsibility to take a break from all the news headlines and to look after ourselves too.
Now, more than ever, it is time to protect ourselves from being overwhelmed. We cannot act constructively to change anything if we are exhausted from information overload. It is a balance that can be tough to strike. Our brains are incredible tools, but they are not immune to the effects of having too much to process and digest. And we have all been in that situation over the past 15 months or so.
Being aware of our need to turn down the noise to a level where we can cope and doing this often is what can keep us mentally and emotionally well, and able to keep moving forward through what will likely be more uncertainty. And it is not just turning down the volume on external information, but also our ability to find ways to get some space from our mind.
Our minds are brilliant at ruminating over and over problems – great if they find solutions and then drop them, but not so great if solutions are not possible, our minds are tired and can’t process a lot or we are projecting into the future or reaching back into the past.
It is not about ignoring or pushing away our thoughts, but rather pausing, being aware and putting into action strategies that can help us find solutions to problems, or ways that can help us let the thoughts go and pass gently. This takes practice and energy, and it is a lifelong journey, but it can be done. So, how can we protect ourselves from information overload?
We need to be informed and we need to understand the world we live in so we can affect change and be part of society. However, too much news consumption can cause us to feel overwhelmed and sad if we have nowhere to take these feelings or no action we feel is possible for us to take. Be aware of your own news consumption – how much time, when in your day, on which platform, and in what manner and emotional state you are consuming your news. Don’t feel guilty or “bad” for turning it off or needing space away.
Reduce the ways you are contactable
With working patterns changing, feeling overwhelmed by messaging has become even more common. Sit down and review how you are allowing people to get hold of you. Reduce the platforms, mute your notifications, look at your phone or check your emails a limited number of times a day. If you are like me, you have probably experienced someone trying to contact you on multiple platforms, multiple times per day and at unsociable hours. Re-establish your boundaries and stick to them.
Find a balance
Balance your activities in your day. Have space for connection, for physical exercise, for creativity and for joy. Many people have not had a break from work for the past year, and even if they have had one planned, it may have been cancelled or at home in the same environment. It has been harder than ever to have a break from the noise of life. Make sure you are focusing on one task at a time. Our brains have specific ways of using our attention and focus, and if we do one thing at a time, we will be more efficient and feel better for it.
Give yourself space from people who overload you or add to your worries or do a “problem dump” on you without any respite.
Space from your thoughts
Make sure you regularly get involved in activities which are not information-oriented but more space-oriented. Mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, physical exercise and sleep can all help you get some space from your mind. Creative hobbies such as art, music, reading, crafting, gardening and nature also can give you that space you need from your worries and thoughts. That volume button is in your hands right now. Make sure you know when you need to turn it down – and give yourself permission to do so.