When the News is too Loud to Tune Out

By Emma Hickey

I start everyday by listening to The New York Times news podcast “The Daily.” I find it primes me for my day, and for the last two weeks, I’ve been primed for days dominated by discussions of sexual assault. The story of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the male-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee, and the confirmation hearings, have seeped into every vertical of my life. My friends, my favorite writers, my coworkers, the man at the bodega—everyone is either talking about the hearings themselves, or talking about the old wounds this news cycle has reopened. New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino put it better than I ever could:

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 Read Jia Tolentino’s full  New Yorker  piece  here .

Read Jia Tolentino’s full New Yorker piece here.

It’s been hard to think of anything else. The news has been too loud to tune out, and—more importantly—I didn’t want to tune it out. I spent all day Thursday and Friday watching livestreams of the proceedings, listening to pundits discuss Dr. Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s testimonies, and talking about it with my friends, family, colleagues and strangers. One thing I did not do much of, though, is work.

I know that even when the news stops me in my tracks, the world spins on, and I know that even when my thoughts have turned single-minded, I have to make room for the responsibilities of my daily life, but what I don’t know is how to do this. All the women I know, and I suspect many people I don’t, have expressed similar thoughts this week. How can we even think about closing deals, filling out expense reports, cleaning our apartments, when it feels like the world beyond all that is on fire? I certainly don’t know, but we have to, and here are a few thoughts—half-formed and created out of necessity rather than desire—that might help you (and me) try:

Create a space where you can consume the news in a group, rather than alone. My friend’s office livestreamed the hearings in a conference room all day on Thursday and Friday. Her coworkers brought their laptops to the conference room and instead of experiencing the onslaught of emotions provoked by this news cycle while isolated at their desks, they experienced it together, and that made a difficult thing more bearable. The mildest way to put it is that sometimes current events are the elephant in the room, and instead of spending your work day fastidiously avoiding acknowledging the elephant, it can actually be more helpful to look it in the eyes.

Protect yourself. Turn off the news when you can’t take it anymore. Don’t feel obligated to consume something that will make you sick. When the news is heavy, bear it but don’t let it crush you. Back in May, we posted a blog about self care that you can read here, and those tips for decompressing from the stress of day to day life apply in these more extreme situations, too.  

Accept that you won’t be your best self when everyday is a march through relentless and devastating rhetoric. Forgive yourself for not performing at your highest level on days like these. It’s ok. Go to bed, wake up tomorrow, try to make it through the news cycle as best you can, and be kind to yourself when you can’t.

It’s unrealistic to think that you, I, we can plow through the day like normal when all that’s in the ether is abnormal. We have to try to find balance that will allow us to get through our days until the storm shifts from the foreground to the background. It’s challenging, and we have to name it as such. On days when the news is too loud to tune out, we must simply do our best and accept that that is enough.

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