Every day feels the same now.
I try to schedule it, and sometimes I get something accomplished, though not as much as I’d hoped. Instead, like clockwork, I find myself in front of a screen, watching or reading or listening to more awfulness, and sharing it. A virus we’ve all caught. And we’re trapped, just like Bill Murray, living that same day over and over. And we’re only two weeks in.
A friend just confessed to being so stressed she’s unable to eat, or sleep. Another spoke to not knowing what to do with her rage. We’re snapping at each other online, friendships are breaking, and we’re all running such high levels of anxiety and adrenaline that our bodies are exhausted. It’s unsustainable.
Speaking as someone who regularly mainlines the news, allow me to offer this advice: turn off the news. Schedule two or three times a day to check in and find out what new outrages the government is perpetrating, which politician or corporation is trying to exploit the situation, and worst of all to count the sick and the dead. Then turn it off.
You are not evil or cowardly or weak for needing a break. You are human, and to remain sane and whole, you should refrain from a constant diet of fear and rage.
What to do instead? It’s hard, especially depending on where you live, and who you live with. But here’s a piece of wisdom I’ve clung to all my life:
The things that made you happy when you were young have the power to make you happy now.
For me, it’s comic books, and Looney Tunes, and Dangermouse cartoons. It’s movies like Groundhog’s Day, or Star Wars. It’s music. Oh, it’s music. Music I listened to as a teenager — Peter Gabriel, Sinead O’Conner, Paul Simon, U2 — is keeping me sane today.
Of course there are plenty of wonderful things happening right now. Patrick Stewart reading sonnets is lovely. Penguins roaming the Shedd are delightful. And this video from the Rotterdam Philharmonic is beautiful:
Still, you never know what you’re going to get when you go online. So limit your vulnerability so you can steel yourself to the inundation of news that will be in your feed, your inbox, your ears.
So pick a favorite book, something familiar, to have on hand. Naturally, as an author, I’d advise everyone to read more. But this doesn’t have to be the moment in Groundhog Day where you set out to improve yourself. We first have to weather the dark days, the despair Phil experiences when he feels trapped, helpless.
In the film, he escapes that despair by embracing the familiar. You can do that, too.
Because the things that gave you joy in the past have the power to bring you joy today.
So be well. Wash your hands. Limit your news intake. Embrace the things and people you love. And, if you can, donate blood. We’re all in this together.