#31: slowing down the news

6 ways to process and re-orient for a new season

Good morning,

This was a heavy news week so I’m offering you (and myself) a short list of ways to slow down and change things up inside your own head.

Personally, I love when the weather starts to cool down for fall because in a world where everything feels on all the time, it’s nice to be reminded that seasons exist. Marking time has long given human beings cues to be intentional about preparation for the next season. Things can be turned on or off for finite periods of time.

If you live in a city and on the internet, though, it’s too easy to forget this. And with the kind of news cycle we’ve been experiencing of late, it can be too difficult to unplug.

Sometimes the only thing that works for me is taking myself out of my normal routine in order to hear myself. What do I need? What am I missing? How do I slow things down and re-orient myself?

For example, a few things I’ve realized that I really need(ed) recently, in order to slow down the news:

  • a bird’s eye or long-term view

  • access to new perspectives

  • space to ask deeper, better questions

And there are ways to find all of the above if we take a moment to pause and ask ourselves how it’s going.

I’ve tried to summarize my recent needs and what I did about them into 6 things, in case you need them too.

I spent 53 minutes listening to The New Puritans in The Atlantic, which is a historian’s analysis of the culture of intense peer pressure we have come to live in.

I listened while walking around the NYU and New School neighborhoods in NYC, which are filled with college students for the first time since the pandemic began.

The walk made me feel like I had aged so much over the last 2 years, especially seeing gen z fashion in full flare, but I also felt hopeful and excited by their energy and boldness and overwhelming presence on the streets.

It was a bizarre but great juxtaposition to the story itself, which was pretty depressing. But still, it made me feel like I could let out a deep, slow, sad breath.

I didn’t realize how badly I needed someone smarter than me to give me a bird’s eye view on what I’m witnessing.

It connected a lot of dots in my head, and afterwards I made a little drawing of how I’m thinking about the factors at play in the social/online climate we currently live that perhaps I’ll refine and share in a later issue.

📌 So here is how I like to build processing time into my consumption:

  • When: Once a month (at least), try to take the time to consume something that will help you process the firehose of information that’s been coming at you for the last several weeks.

  • What: I prefer podcasts and longform which honestly aren’t always accessible to most people, because it’s expensive or we don’t have the attention span/time for it. But it’s a worthy monthly practice to try to build into your life.

  • Where to start: The “Discover” section on Pocket, the Sunday Longreads newsletter, a subscription to Audm or simply using the “search” feature in your podcast app for a person or topic you want to understand. I find great episodes that way.

  • How: This is my favorite part. I pay attention to my body as much as I can. Do I want a Friday night in bed with an episode of Explained? Or a drink and a great magazine article outdoors? Or a walk and a podcast episode or article? Place and time matter as much as the content.

  • 📢 There is nothing worse than being hunched over your phone on an uncomfortable chair while scrolling fast through something that you’re not sure why you’re reading.

Another example: I opened this piece on Why the Anti-Vaccine Movement Is Getting Stronger (NYT) on a big screen, which, given that it’s deep analysis (and from a book), just felt easier to look at and digest. It was like my brain knew how to take it in with an open mind, just because it was big.

Sometimes your relationships with the people in your immediate circle get… stuck in a rut. For instance, if you always talk about the same few topics, or spend most of your time catching up or venting about real life to each other, it’s hard to steer the conversation in a different direction.

For that reason, when I saw this game, Cozy Juice Real, featured in the Creative Mornings newsletter (which I also love for inspiration), I thought it was brilliantly designed. I haven’t played yet but basically, it’s a board game with meaningful discussion prompts for teams or groups to play.

There are other ways to change up the conversations you’re having too, say setting up a friend date with an actual agenda—like can we talk about this specific news story that’s making me feel X?

At other times, the information firehose just makes you feel like you are losing sight of yourself. Which could then subconsciously motivate you to gravitate towards social media content that makes you feel like you are with your people. And then you end up in a filter bubble.

What I’ve found far more meaningful than filling my feeds that way, is bibliotherapy. The amazing thing about diversifying the voices we are seeing in fiction and memoir writing is that there are finally stories out there that can help you feel seen and heard if you usually don’t. The themes, the patterns, the language, the food, the places. To hear someone’s inner dialogue and realize it sort of feels like yours is amazing.

I’m currently enjoying Crying in H Mart for this reason. The tone and scope—family relationships, immigration, retrospective understanding, mental health awareness, the pains and perils of being a creative producer—it’s all there.

Find your story! There’s a good chance it’s actually out there. And if it isn’t, maybe you should write it :)

I signed up for Lunchclub a long time ago but finally started using it in August because I just felt like I needed to talk to new people about what is happening in the world.

And I have been so pleasantly surprised. It’s an AI-powered matching service + video call platform to have 1:1 calls with strangers—be it to build your network, meet a new friend, work through an idea together or anything else. The matches have been great so far.

In the last few weeks, I have had fascinating conversations with a sociologist, a young journalist who just left her TV news job and a science journalist who works on making research more accessible.

Sometimes I can feel it coming weeks in advance. My routine isn’t working anymore—I’m more tired than usual, more unfocused, more bored by my own thoughts—which means I need to iterate on how I’m spending my time. That could mean more rest, more exercise, less news, more friend time, or any combination of iterations.

Here are two new ones I am loving and hoping to prioritize in the fall:

  1. Homebodies, a workout program by Remi and Nate that I absolutely love, because it’s something different every day, connected to functional movement, and builds on itself. In other words, it mimics the same process I’m going through with other practices (writing being the biggest) which feels like awesome, parallel physical+mental development.

  2. More Deep Work, which matters more than anything when you work in a creative field, but has been so hard to maintain when online so much. I’m reading the book in full and trying to be mindful of how I structure my day accordingly.

Is there something you can change about the way you are working that would make a big difference? Try it!

And finally, sometimes a blast from the past orients you in time in the most shocking and helpful way. With the 20th anniversary of 9/11 coming up, school days have been on my mind (I was 12 on 9/11). Perhaps this subconsciously compelled me to unearth my old yearbooks over the weekend.

My 7th grade yearbook was dedicated to loved ones my classmates lost on 9/11, which gave me pause.

And my 10th grade yearbook had a “this year’s news” section, which had these gems in it and really put time in perspective.

Also, that was the last time the 17 year cicadas were out.

There are great archives available online for most papers these days, so if you want a snapshot of what was happening in the world when you were X years old, try to find it!

(Also side note: someone told my husband to buy and save the newspaper from our wedding day, so we did. I look forward to unearthing it decades from now.)

All this said, I hope everyone is taking great care of themselves as the world spins madly around us. We’re always best equipped to help when we are well or at least striving together to be well. And sometimes that means changing things up for a new season.