The Sheaf guide to staying informed without losing your mind

By in Opinions

So far, 2017 has been a hard year for news coverage. Between Donald Trump’s presidency and Beyoncé losing at the Grammys, it seems like there’s always something important happening in the world that we should know about. But how do you stay informed without losing your damn mind?

I like to consider myself a bit of a news junkie. Part of it is the nature of being a journalist, but a lot of it just comes from being curious about what’s going on in the world. Under ordinary circumstances, I’m constantly tuned in. I truly believe that being informed is a key part of being a good citizen and critical thinker.

Crazy News - Jeremy Britz
Proper media consumption habits can be your friend.

These aren’t ordinary circumstances though. Trump has all but declared war on the media. Phrases like “alternative facts” and “fake news” have become common language. From mid-November to the beginning of January, I couldn’t look at the news.

Sure, I caught the headlines on my Facebook feed, but I didn’t actively seek out information. I just couldn’t. The unstable and surreal state of the world was too much for me to deal with at the moment.

When I did feel ready to start following the news again, I had to change the way I approached it. I couldn’t keep being over-informed at the cost of my own well-being. These are some of the ways that I keep up with current events while balancing my mental health — maybe some of them will work for you, too.

Don’t check Twitter at 3 a.m. Just don’t do it. Nothing will come of it, other than intense panic and anxiety about the state of the world. This is a very specific example that I’ve experienced, but it can be applied to a broader point: being connected at all times isn’t necessarily a good thing.

It can be helpful to set limits on how and when you consume information and social media. Maybe this means only listening to a news podcast in the morning on the bus or turning your phone on silent after you’ve gone to bed — whatever works for you. The world will still be there in the morning, for better or worse.

Choose your news sources wisely. Multiple outlets are reporting on the same news, with varying degrees of accuracy. Reading the same story again and again can just intensify anxiety. I have a couple of news websites I follow and a few podcasts I listen to regularly. By limiting my sources, it’s easier to avoid getting overwhelmed.

I also make an effort to follow news and current events that aren’t related to the current state of global politics. Over the last few months, the vast majority of major media coverage has focused on Trump’s presidency and the uncertainty that has come along with it. While these are important issues to cover, there’s still a ton of other stuff going on in the world.

I’m particularly in favour of focusing on smaller scale issues — news from your local campus or community. So much is happening at the University of Saskatchewan and within Saskatoon as a whole — rising tuition rates, the Meewasin by-election, the building of the Dundurn Megamall — and it’s all important.

Sure, it might not be any more cheerful than American politics, but it’s different. It’s tangible. Most importantly, local news is something that we can often have a direct impact on rather than silently worrying about it.

None of these strategies are foolproof. I still have times when I feel overwhelmed by what’s going on the world and have a panic attack in the middle of reading the news. But they do help. By being smart about how I stay informed, I’ve made sure that I stay informed while staying sane — and maybe that way, I can help make the world a better place.

Emily Klatt / Sports & Health Editor

Photo: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor