How to do a news detox while still staying informed

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You’re not alone if reading the news is giving you anxiety. No matter who you cast your ballot for, the country is in transition and people have (very) strong feelings about it. Exhibit A: your Facebook feed. (Makes you miss the days when it was all baby and wedding photos, right?) And all this is in addition to the normal news cycle—which isn’t exactly uplifting either.

It’s enough to make you want to stop reading the news completely—and it turns out, that’s not a bad thing. “There is no better time to take a news detox than right now,” says Dr. Pete Sulack, DC, founder of StressRX. “The holidays are exactly when you should practice being present with your family and friends. Taking a news break will not only limit family arguments but that peacefulness will lead to a more loving and satisfying season.”

But what about staying an educated citizen? There’s important stuff happening! And how would you stop everyone else from talking about the news anyway? It’s everywhere.

Turns out, there’s a way to give your brain a break from constant news updates, without completely burying your head in the sand—here’s how.

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Tell your friends and family

First things first: Letting people you normally talk shop with know you need a little break will limit the number of people inundating your inbox with anti-Trump rally invites or starting a conversation about the latest tragedy to land on the front page of the Times. And if you can’t escape it, Dr. Sulack offers this advice: “First, offer up some grace. Know that the person you’re talking to already has his or her mind made up, so don’t get consumed in a charged conversation.” That will lead to a more peaceful discussion instead of one that feels like a verbal tug of war.

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Go cold turkey if you can—even if it’s just for one day

According to Dr. Sulack, doing a news detox does a body good—literally. “When you’re constantly plugged in electronically, you’re continuously stimulating the left hemisphere of the brain, which houses the emotional center. This instigates a cascade of cortisol, the stress hormone, which really affects the body on a cellular level.” And you probably guessed it, but those effects aren’t good. “It causes you to age faster, get sick, gain weight, and feel like crud,” Dr. Sulack says, not so lightly.

He also adds that it leads to the digestive and immune systems shutting down and a decrease in sex drive, which is why he’s all in favor for going completely off the grid to turn things around—even if it’s just one day. “I can assure you that if something major happens, you will know because people will be talking about it,” Dr. Sulack says.

“The average American checks his or her phone 150 times a day for updates,” he says. “Take the long view and know that things will progress how they will and that checking in constantly doesn’t give you any control over the situation, it just feels that way. It’s a false sense of control that in the long run stresses you out and reduces the [length] and quality of your life.”

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Photo: Stocksy/Guille Faingold

Stay informed the old school way

If going completely dark isn’t an option for you, Dr. Sulack offers up another solution: “Choose one media outlet you trust and only check it once a week or once a day,” he says. It’s a bit like how your grandparents stayed informed: they read the newspaper over breakfast in the morning and that’s it. They weren’t getting alerts on their phones or checking 10 different news sites while eating lunch at their desks.

And part of the once-a-day mindset means not checking social media throughout the day where headlines and political rants are bound to surface. Check your go-to platforms along with your trusted news outlet once and then move on.

“Right now with this post-election stress and the holidays, I recommend people do three things,” Dr. Sulack says. “Unplug (like with a digital detox), unwind (find a way to relax), and undo (undo the election stress by taking control of your health). In the end, it will help your mind and your body.”

Want more mindfulness tips? Here’s how to behave like a Buddhist during your morning commute. Plus, here’s how to be angry without being hateful, an important read in our current divisive political climate. 

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