People have their own preferences about how they like to stay informed on news and current events. My mom likes the evening news and makes a point of turning on NBC with Lester Holt every night at 6:30 PM. My husband checks his favorite blogs while he has his coffee and rarely misses a chance to watch Meet The Press on Sunday mornings. I listen to NPR when I'm cooking dinner and often use that time to check in with the world and see what's up. The news is significantly sobering and weighty most of the time, but on the plus side there's usually some human interest stories that make me smile or inspire me in some way. It's a mixed bag, but like most of us in the 21st century I have adapted.
Lately that has not been happening. The current election is such a circus that frustration and fear seem to overshadow other emotions. Just hearing a certain political candidate's voice (it rhymes with dump) can elevate my blood pressure. My evening check-in with the world at large has become fraught with anxiety. I recently found myself chopping carrots and stopping to yell at the news while waving my knife around in the air.
But still I kept turning on the radio every night like clockwork. I wanted to turn it off, but I told myself that it was irresponsible not to be informed in an election year. I told myself that not listening was like sticking my head in the sand (which I honestly feel like doing sometimes).
I was telling myself all kinds of stuff that wasn't true.
I am in the business of teaching people to question their thoughts when negative feelings like anger and frustration impinge on their happiness and wellbeing (that knife was sharp!). So I thought about it and I remembered some of my favorite coaching tools.
First of all, there are no "shoulds". I was making it mean that by not tuning in to the daily news I was somehow shirking my responsibility as a citizen of the world. Patently untrue. There are no rules. I can choose the amount of informed I feel comfortable with - even in an election year. I am a registered voter and when the time comes to cast my vote you can be assured that I will be up to date on the facts. I do not want or need all that insanity up in my grill every evening until November -- or ever!
Asking myself the question, "What am I making this mean?" was the key to turning the feeling around.
Second of all, I also get to choose how I spend my time. Always. Of course there are things that I choose to do that don't make me jump for joy. I deplore doing the laundry but I really like clean clothes. I wish I didn't have to prep my taxes but I don't like the alternative so I choose to do them. On the flip side I can choose not to say yes to every committee invitation or school meeting when I am exhausted or overbooked. I can carefully weigh those invitations and see where they are in alignment with my values or if I am "shoulding" myself. One of my values is maintaining good self-care, so if I am feeling too maxed out then I will say "no thank you" and feel OK about it.
The knife-waving incident was a good reminder that I am in charge of how I feel and if I don't like it I can question and reevaluate.
Obviously it's not always as easy as deciding to off the radio, but taking time to uncover the thoughts behind the feelings and make some shifts is liberating and empowering.
The past couple of weeks I have been on a modified news blackout. I am more relaxed in the evenings, I am spending dinner prep time listening to music or just chatting with my kids when they are around and more than likely my over-taxed cortisol levels are probably lower (bonus!). Thanks to Facebook I have enough of a window into current events and happenings for me to feel connected and informed. And once we get past the primary season I can choose to revisit my NPR ritual and see if I can fuel that anger into some motivation instead of frustration.