I usually have a fairly healthy relationship with current events. I read enough to stay informed, but not so much as to become entrenched in the 24-hour news cycle. However, every so often an event comes along that strikes a chord with me and I become obsessed. This week I found that concern and worry about a current event can quickly turn into a consuming problem that affects day-to-day work and peace of mind. I’d like to share the strategies I used to tune it out.
A Shocking Story
When news of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 first broke last weekend, I was shocked, worried, saddened and frustrated. As somebody who struggles with worrying, and had to overcome a dislike of flying to be a traveling speaker, I have spent countless hours convincing myself that air travel is not something to worry about. “It’s safer than driving a car. Planes are inspected every day. They are designed to keep gliding even after engine failure.”
Now that this plane had gone completely missing, I just couldn’t accept that there were no answers. “What happened to all those people? What about their families? Will they get answers? I have a computer that fits in my pocket, a car that senses rain water, but we can’t find a giant airplane?”
My New Obsession
I dealt with this frustration and sadness by reading news articles, EVERY news article that came out. I checked Twitter constantly, I read the USA Today blog updates every few hours. I even read conspiracy theories, wild hypotheses, and crazy speculation. I found myself interrupting my work to check these “updates.” Then I realized three things:
1. There is always something new to read
When our only source of news was newspapers, there was a finite end to the day’s current events. Now, we have the ability to keep reading forever. There will always be a new perspective, new article, or the same article with a new headline. At some point, you just have to stop.
2. Speculation hides as information
When there is no new news to report, people still have to write about something so they speculate. They write about facts that probably don’t really matter, but it fills up a page (er…screen). While I first felt more informed because of my news obsession, I quickly realized I had just spent more time on the internet.
3. News makes distraction seem OK
At first I didn’t feel guilty for allowing myself to be distracted by these stories. This is important! I told myself. Then, I realized that I was just making excuses for my lack of focus. The news had become my new Time Killer, and it needed to stop. I wasn’t doing anything to help and my worry was getting the best of me.
I have decided that I’m no longer going to check on this story every hour. What is your Time Killer you need to let go of this week?
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