Doing a COVID-19 Media Diet

Doing a Covid-19 Media DietThis week we welcome guest writer and tutor Ariel Salzer to talk about disconnecting somewhat from media coverage of the coronavirus.

“The Coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” “the Rona” if you’re trying to make light of things, or, even scarier, just “the virus”… It’s all anyone is talking about. And it makes sense, right? We are worried—worried for our friends and family members who staff hospitals, worried for elderly relatives and kids with health problems. Worried about our own lives and futures. And you know what? This pervasive and all-consuming uneasiness is skyrocketing our stress levels. And worse, it’s affecting all of us.

See if this sounds familiar. You wake up, check the news. Eat a meal… while checking the news. Chat with a friend about how surreal things are getting and the various lockdown measures in your respective areas. Peruse pictures of once-busy streets that are now eerily silent. Fall asleep… but not before spending a couple of hours scrolling through the latest death tolls and reading at least one heartbreaking story of someone dying alone. It’s horrible. The whole thing is absolutely horrible.

So, how do you cope? I’ll tell you. You go on a media diet.

What is a media diet? It’s a detox of sorts. Here are some steps you can take:

1. Turn Off the News!

First things first. Turn the TV off. You don’t need to have the news running in the background. How often do they actually give you new, useful information anyway? Most of it is a repeat, right? They have one or two top stories and the rest is sensationalism and recaps. If you watch the news once per day, you will still get all the highlights, without all the chatter.

Obviously leaving the news completely unchecked is not really an option. We are all wondering what will happen next. We are all concerned. Try reading the news instead so you can more easily set limits and avoid the constant barrage of TV commentary (and yelling!). Or, if you’re mostly concerned with staying up-to-date on the basics, watch funny news highlights shows that will brief you on content in a lighter, humorous way.

2. Take Some Time Out for Peace and Quiet

Some people love to have background noise at all times. They listen to music in the shower. They watch a movie while eating dinner. That’s totally fine. I get how you might not want a whole lot of silence during a pandemic, especially if you’re quarantining alone with only your anxious thoughts to keep you company. Regardless of your usual M.O., though, give some peace and quiet a try.

One thing I’ve noticed with my bar students over the years is that there can be an underlying level of anxiety that almost never reaches the surface of their consciousness because there is always too much going on. Memorizing, writing, drilling MBEs—the whole day is already full. Then, they try to go to sleep at night, and BAM! The minute it’s quiet, all those crippling thoughts start flooding in. How do you stop this? By getting a handle on stress before it boils over.

Stop throughout the day and check in with how you’re feeling—as corny as it sounds. Give yourself some breaks. Sit with your thoughts and parse out which ones are productive and which aren’t. Catalogue your anxieties and figure out which thoughts you need to work harder to keep at bay.

There’s a lot up in the air right now. Midterm and final exams, classes going online, new grading schemes that may not get you the GPA you wanted, the bar, lost summer associateships and of course, worrying about the people you love getting sick. I’m not saying it isn’t stress-worthy stuff we are dealing with here! Because it is incredibly tough. But inundating ourselves with the stress 24/7 isn’t helping anyone. Take a quiet break. You probably need it.

3. Recharge Yourself Minus the Phone

What gets you your equilibrium back? It’s different for all of us. Unfortunately, some of the usuals like going for a run or having dinner with friends are just not an option right now. Is there something else you can do to get back to a happier, healthier version of yourself?

If you’re wallowing, stop it. If you’re procrastinating, get up and do something. It’s so easy to let the entire day turn into lounging around online if you’re not careful. I promise you’ll feel a lot better if you get out of bed today. Open the window. Get some fresh air and sunshine. And maybe video chat some friends who can commiserate.  

4. Build a Healthier Routine

Take a look at your daily routine as it stands right now. Is it working for you? Be honest. Are you the kind of person who needs 8 hours of sleep, lots of water and healthy food? Most of us are. But do we give ourselves all of these things? Probably not. Often, when stress and anxiety take over, these are the first things to go. Now that you’re likely stuck at home, you can at least make sure that you’re taking care of yourself.

If you’re sinking in a media tidal wave, you’re the only person who can get your head above water. And it’s your job.

Here are some suggestions:

  • First thing in the morning, look at literally anything besides your phone. Take a moment to get in some deep breaths before letting the onslaught begin. Feel the sun on your face. Imagine breakfast. Whatever it takes! Don’t just jump headlong into the stress bubble surrounding this pandemic.
  • When you go to bed at night, try taking a phone break. Rather than squinting at your screen, do some meditation, listen to an audiobook, or put on some white noise. I love the “Relax Melodies” app. You can customize and time your sleep sounds. I recommend this one to my bar students all the time.
  • Throught the day, set media limits for yourself. Yes, you can binge all of Tiger King in one sitting. Should you? Absolutely not. Play solitaire, try your hand at baking bread, write a poem, have a dance party, make up a game of quarantine bingo. Obviously, if you’re studying for the bar from home right now, get your work done.

Bottom line, try not to worry and stress yourself out unnecessarily. If you find yourself slipping, have some options in place for how you can redirect your attention.


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