Mindful news consumption for nonprofit pros

Written by: Beth Kanter
Published on: Oct 28, 2017

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I teach workshops on self-care practices and how to bring a culture of well-being into the nonprofit workplaces. One of the first exercises I do with workshop participants is give them the Nonprofit Passion Fatigue Burnout Assessment, taken from the book I co-authored with Aliza Sherman, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit. This assessment helps participants become more self-aware of burnout symptoms, and the level of burnout they may be experiencing.

We identify four stages of burnout, from “passion-driven” to “passion depleted,” where you are completely burned out. No matter what stage you are in, however, everyone needs a self-care plan to ease or manage stress. We make time in each workshop for participants to begin writing that self-care plan, and to discuss self-care habits worth embracing.

In recent weeks, we have been pummeled with disturbing headlines: natural disasters, policy upheavals, heated protests, resurgent racism, international brinksmanship, the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and more. More than ever, perhaps, following the news can lead us to experience overwhelming stress. (And if, like many Americans, you get your news from social media, the constant flow of reactions from friends can amplify that stress.)

Interestingly enough, almost everyone in one recent workshop had already put themselves on a “news diet” to help curb burnout. A recent article in Mindful magazine, “Unhook from the News and Stay Informed,” contains some highly useful information on this very topic. Their three suggestions:

  • Go on a news diet: Identify your trusted news sources, and consume news only at specific times of the day or the week, not throughout. If you are concerned that missing breaking news will somehow lead to political inaction, or indicates that you don’t care, carve out time for political action.

  • Practice news meditation: This is the act of cultivating awareness of your emotions and thoughts while learning about the latest catastrophic weather event or tweet from the President. This can also help you navigate heated political discussions with family members and others.

  • Practice news inquiry: The big idea here is to question your stressful thoughts and beliefs to see if you can find truth in their opposites. For instance, if you’re thinking about how one political party might be destroying U.S. democracy, try asking yourself, How is that party creating conditions that might strengthen our democracy? When you turn around beliefs you see as true, you gain a wider perspective, and with it a greater sense of peace and openness.

One of my workshop participants, a communications director, executes her news-consumption solution this way: She scans headlines once a day, in the morning, and only goes deep into stories that are relevant to her communications strategy. She only consumes news from a handful of vetted sources, and she has turned off all breaking news alerts. She is also sure to monitor her reactions and emotions. Adopting this plan, she’s relieved herself of a great deal of stress she built up while over-consuming.

These are just a few ideas. Think about how you balance your need to be informed, take action, and practice self-care, and how is your nonprofit is handling this in the workplace. If you must follow the news, then you must find a way to do it that does not create stress, diminish your passion, and lead, ultimately, to burnout.

Beth Kanter is an internationally-acclaimed trainer, speaker, and author, most recently of The Happy Healthy Nonprofit, and was named one of the most influential women in technology by Fast Company magazine. Follow her on her blog, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on Beth Kanter’s blog.

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