H-e-e-re we go. The roughly 30-day period of the year where the schedule, cash outflows, meetings, food and family all come to collide in a frenzy of--what do they call it? Oh, yeah. "Cheer."
You are forgiven if you descend to the depths of stress while you throw a bird in the oven, then make a quick trip to the Mall With No Parking.
All in service of spending a day with your know-it-all Uncle who disparages your political leanings. What a deal.
The Good News
The holidays are actually a good time to restore a sense of calm--one that may not be possible during normal periods of the year.
Why? Because you'll have some time off. So you might accompany that free time with an easy restorative habit:
The news fast.
Andrew Weil, the Harvard-trained physician who popularized integrative medicine--the combination of traditional techniques with modern approaches--called for the news fast in his 1997 book, 8 Weeks To Optimum Health. He suggested a news fast for one day during week four, and he advocated increasing the news fast to a full week by week eight. Then, he said, you can decide how much news to add back to your life.
I tried the news fast that year, but I cheated. As a devoted news reader, I knew fasting on a work day would tie me into knots. It just wouldn't work.
So I only "fasted" on days where other habits--work, commute, place--were disrupted. So--holidays!
I found it helpful for two reasons. And there is evidence that it may help mightily in a third area:
Naturally, a news fast--no news on TV, radio or print--reduces mental input. This reduces mental chatter--the underlying hum of concerns that tend to distract us in the background. Reduced chatter in the background leads to improved mental clarity and a promote a feeling of well-being.
I am a devoted believer in reducing mental chatter. This really helped.
Anxiety and Depression
Hearing all the news--especially about crime, war and discord--is harmful in long doses, Dr. Weil finds. Studies have also found that distressing messages increase the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. To reduce negative emotions and their depressive responses from thinking beings, it is good to meter your exposure to those messages. For me, fewer negative messages meant more time to breathe easy.
Cynicism and Feeling Overwhelmed
Here's a theory that ties in to the idea of a news fast: In an era of blanket social media coverage, of fake news and shouting experts, there is some evidence that we literally cannot process the information. We are not reading the news--we are skimming it--or worse, forwarding it. Some feel that this overload is a danger to the premise of informed democracy.
So, cutting back not only makes you less stressed, but permits you to be more attentive to the important news--the really important news--when you re-enter. In other words, a fast will permit the discerning citizen to be more able to judge and debate the great number of impressions flying her way.
My experience is all of that. When I refrain from exposure to the news during Thanksgiving weekend and during Christmas week, it feels wonderful.
Know what a real news fast feels like?