Here in the U.S., we’re a couple of weeks into the strange new reality of coronavirus pandemic lockdown, and we’re all doing our best to adjust. Life as we know it has been completely thrown off, and what we know about this new reality changes by the day.
Good times, right?
We all process information differently, especially during a crisis. Some of us want all the numbers and stats and first-hand stories. Some of us get freaked out by that much detail and just want an overview of what to do. Some avoid the news altogether because it makes us anxious, while others devour every article we can get our hands on because it makes us feel grounded.
Neither way is wrong, but personally, I’m an information junkie. In general, I feel comforted knowing exactly what’s happening and having all of the facts. I never saw this as a problem—until this pandemic hit.
When life was “normal,” I would choose a subject to dive into, drink my fill of info, and move on. When something major happened, I might consume a bit more.
But with the coronavirus pandemic, it’s different. I feel like I’m constantly thirsty for more information, yet being hit with a firehouse of it at the same time. It’s a lot. Too much, really.
Coronavirus and everything that goes along with it is all anyone is talking about right now. It’s all news outlets are reporting on, and that’s probably how it should be. The world is literally on hold, which makes everything unrelated to the pandemic irrelevant, at least for the immediate time being.
We’ve never seen a global pandemic in our lifetimes. And as crises go, it’s kind of weird. Unlike a sudden natural disaster or event like 9/11, this is a slow, continually evolving emergency. It’s required us to take extreme action before it felt necessary. It’s forced us to all get on the same page quickly and then just…wait.
Waiting while being locked down at home is a good way to stay physically healthy, but it’s a mentally dangerous scenario for us information junkies. It’s easy to spend hours a day on the internet, which is currently a 24/7 immersion of coronavirus content and conversation.
Not only are we living in this pandemic, we are consuming it, all day, every day. And there’s no way that can be healthy. It’s going to take its toll on all of us.
Even outside of my work as a writer, where I’m immersed in media all day long, I find it hard to pull away from the news. I can feel it wearing on me, but I also feel like I have a moral duty to pay rapt attention to it. I feel like I owe it to the people on the front lines to know what they’re dealing with, like I can’t just turn a blind eye to the people who are suffering through this more than I am, like I should at least watch the ship go down if I can’t do anything to stop it.
But that right there—the truth that we can’t do anything more than what we’re already doing—is the key to letting go of the need to constantly stay informed. I’m already holed up at home. I’m already social distancing. I’m already practicing good hand hygiene. I’m already following all of the directives from local, state, and federal authorities. If my devouring news could actually save a life, it would be justified. But it can’t.
And this is a long game—likely a very long game. For the sake of our mental and emotional health, we have to disconnect from all of this sometimes. Even us info junkies. Nothing is healthy in excess, and right now it’s far too easy to be excessive with our information load. And that’s only going to get worse as more cases are confirmed, more areas get hit hard, and more people we know and love are affected.
So our family has decided that one day per week we will have a coronavirus-free day. No news. No stat checking. No looking at Twitter or Facebook, even briefly. One day to shut it all off. One day to do anything and everything except watch, read, or talk about anything having to do with coronavirus. At least for as long as we can.
Disconnecting won’t make any of this go away, obviously, and we still have the constant reminder of not being able to go places we’d normally go and see people we’d normally see. But at least we can step out of the information firehose and take a much-needed deep breath once a week.
It’s okay to take a break from the news, from the stats, from the stories, and from the coronavirus in general. Give yourself permission to step away from it.
I promise, it’ll still be here tomorrow.