Q&A | Are you in a state of news overwhelm?

Are you inundated by the news right now? Is there such a thing as too much news? We are raising children in an era of constant exposure to the news–it hits us instantly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With the current pandemic, it has many of us captivated as we find it hard to look away.

Constant exposure to the news can increase anxiety. Is there a way to find a balance between being informed and being inundated? That’s what we are chatting about in today’s episode.

Hi there and welcome to episode 204 today I'm answering a question about news overwhelm. Is there a such thing as consuming too much news? Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my Ph.D. In child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us.

Hi, and thank you for tuning in this is episode 204. And today I'm answering a question about news overwhelm. Is it possible that you're consuming too much news now each week in these Q and A episodes on Tuesdays, I start the episode off by sharing something simple that I've been loving. And then I move into a question from an audience member. This week, something simple that I'm sharing is my kid's bullet journal. This is something that I've been doing informally with my kids for a really long time. I'm not sure why I've never shared it before. So my kids really want to know what's coming down the pipe each day. And this is especially true when we have a lot of days of unscheduled time. So we really started doing this consistently last summer when my kids were around for summer break and we would wake up in the morning and especially my son who was five at that time would say, all right, well, what are we doing now?

What are we doing next? What's coming after that. And he really wanted to know, but he wasn't reading yet. So what I did was create a weekly form for him to see the seven days of the week. And then each day we would start the day by filling in roughly what the day would look like. But with a series of different pictures, now I rarely, rarely ever put times on this. It's meant to just give a visual guide of what our rough schedule for the day is going to look like. It's meant to be flexible. It's really just meant to inform my kids. Because if you think about it, young kids who can't tell time and they don't even know what day of the week it is, they wake up every day with no sense of what the plan is. No sense of the agenda.

How frustrating would that be for you to wake up in the morning? Not know what time it is, not know what day it is, not know what the schedule is to come now because our kids live in the moment. They can handle this a little bit better than we can, but if you have a kid like my son who always wants to know what's coming next, it can be good to give them a visual representation of it. Now I've always been hesitant to do anything formal, like a printed calendar, exactly what our day is going to look like or what I anticipate it's going to look like in advance because it always changes. So instead I just have this blank, weekly calendar or bullet journal. And each day we start the day by drawing some pictures of what is to come. It's really simple. So I shared this in the Simple Families community on Facebook last week, and a few people asked for the principles.

So I went ahead and uploaded that if you want to get a copy of it, it's free. Of course, go to simplefamilies.com/bulletjournal, all one word that's simplefamilies.com/bulletjournal. And if you pop over to my Instagram profile, you can see an example of how I've been using it with my kids. Since we've been home with the recent social distancing that we've been doing, there's been a couple of daily schedules that I've been seeing, going viral for families to use for their kids with different colors and blocks of time and different ways to use the time. I love the intent behind those, but I think it can be really hard to execute the mood of our children is always unpredictable, especially when they're home. We can't predict what their energy is going to be like. And for me personally, I would never try to implement any kind of rigid schedule because I know it would lead me to very quick failure within probably an hour or two.

I would feel like I failed at implementing said rigid schedule. And I would just give up. So instead of having a rigid schedule, I prefer just to have a very, very loose structure for the day. So I have an idea of what's about to go down. My kids have an idea, but we can mix it up so that it suits us and our moods always be willing and open to changing your mind and to changing your agenda. For many of us that tend to be on the anxious side, we can really strive for a sense of control during uncertain times like we're in right now. So be conscientious is your tendency to control coming out. Could it, in some ways, be an effort to compensate for the unpredictability of the world right now, it's possible. And if so, just try to make sure that it's not impacting the way that you're interacting with your kids too much.

Flexibility is going to be the key to making it through these next few weeks or a few months or whatever it takes, until we regained a sense of normalcy. In tomorrow's episode, I'm going to be sharing more about the seven different ways that we are managing social distancing. So tune into that, if you're looking for some more tips, all right? Now here's a quick 62nd word from today's sponsor. The sponsor for today's episode is handy. Handy is the leading platform for connecting individuals, looking for household services with top quality, independent professionals, anything from home cleaning to handyman services, you can instantly get matched with the right service provider to suit your needs. What I really love is that handy a happiness guarantees. So if you're not satisfied with the quality of service, you can book another professional and make it right at no extra charge.

And for my listeners, Andy has a special limited time offer. You can get your first three hour cleaning for only $29 when you sign up for a cleaning plan. So if you go to handy.com/simple and enter the promo code simple, that's a three hour home cleaning for just $29 with a cleaning plan at handy.com/simple using promo code simple. And I don't know about you, but I think a professionally cleaned house is starting to sound really good. And after all this time we're spending at home, it's going to be much needed very soon terms and conditions do apply. You can visit Handy's website for more information handy is the most reliable name in home cleaning. Moving on to a question from an audience member. I got this question on Instagram this week from Courtney in Dallas, Texas. And she asked me this short, but important question, Denaye, how are you handling the overwhelming amount of news?

I find myself being glued to my phone, constantly. Any words of wisdom? All right, Courtney, I am totally with you on this one. Wow. The constant inundation with the news in particular that we've been experiencing in the past week or two, the way that we are consuming news currently feels a little bit like the way that we are consuming social media. And in actuality, the two are really becoming blurry the lines in between the two, especially when it comes to Facebook, but the need to constantly be up to date up to the minute, up to the second with what's going on, they need to be informed the need to be connected. The FOMO, the fear of missing out the dopamine surges that we get. Every time we hit refresh, or every time an alert pops up and dings on our phone. I think these are all sensations that are building an escalation in recent weeks.

Then for those of us who are prone to anxiety, and those of us who are facing stress and overwhelm in these uncertain times, the constant inundation with news can really exacerbate that. So I know not everybody's going to agree with me on this and everybody has a different approach, but I do encourage you to ask yourself the question. Is there a difference between being informed and being inundated? Can we draw a line on our news consumption to better serve our mental health? And it never seems like you can really catch up because the news is 24/7. If we reflect back just a generation ago on the way that we consumed news, it was really just about twice a day. And the morning when we got the newspaper and in the evening, when we watched the evening news, people were informed, but they weren't inundated.

I do, there are many, many advantages to being more connected and I'm thankful that we're more connected. And I'm thankful that I get the news more than twice a day, but I also feel like the recent increase in news consumption that a lot of us are experiencing myself included is taking us away from other things that are also really important, like exercise, preparing healthy meals for our families, reading books, to our kids, tuning in and connecting with the people that we love, because that time that you're spending consuming the news, maybe it's three or four hours a day. And I don't think that's an over estimate at this point, for many people, that's time that you were previously spent doing other things. So ask yourself, are you consuming so much news that it is actually a detriment to your health and to your wellbeing and to the wellbeing of your family? How can you find a balance? And what's the motivation behind the frequent consumption. If you find yourself reading every 10, 15 minutes for the updates, does it give you a false sense of control? Do you feel like if you're reading it and you're on top of what's going on?

That you might have a little bit more control over the situation and is there truth to that? We absolutely need to be informed, but do we need to be informed multiple times every hour, every few minutes. And I know that's not the case for everyone, but I know that many of us right now are having a hard time putting limits on the news. And I know when I find myself going back to it, I'm often reading the same things over and over again. So things that are helping me, I don't have any alerts on my phone. I'm also making an effort not to consume any news through Facebook. I'm going to new sources directly because I find that Facebook can be sort of a rabbit hole for news. Once you start clicking on things, Facebook starts to show you other things that are similar to the ones that you were already reading, and you can really get lost in that rabbit hole.

We are not letting our kids watch any news and that's just a personal decision that we've made my preference is to filter the information coming down before it gets to my kids, rather than having the news on and having them around. I don't necessarily think that it's detrimental, but I do think what's going on in the world can be really confusing for our kids right now, multiple times. My six year old has said to me, over the past few days, how long are we going to have coronavirus? Are my friends going to get better soon so I can play with them. It's so hard to understand that we're staying home because we're, well, it's also hard to understand that most of our kids are not at a particular risk. So if they're watching the news and seeing how many deaths and seeing the turmoil that it's causing, that can be confusing to say, you're safe.

If you get coronavirus, you're going to be okay. But other people are not. I think that the news can be very confusing for us as adults, and it can be especially confusing for kids. So watch the way that your kids are interpreting it. If they are listening with you and make sure that you're filtering it for them, if they're misunderstanding. But again, I think you need to ask yourself the important question, where is the line between being informed and being inundated and how can you set limits on the news to support your mental health?

Because every minute that you spend consuming the news is taking away from minutes where you could be doing other things that might be more productive and more beneficial for you and for your family. So, surely read and listened to the news, stay updated, but also set some wise limits and boundaries recognize that when you're reading and listening to the same things on repeat, and when you feel like you might be seeking out a little bit of a dopamine fix with a constant refresh, I say that from personal experience, all right, I hope this has been helpful for anyone listening, ask yourself some of these questions.

The answer is going to look different for every one of us. I hope you all stay well, both physically and emotionally take some deep breaths and lean into some of the white space that you have. If you have a little extra white space these days, thanks for tuning in this has been episode 204. I'll talk with you soon.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.