During a season of unrelenting news cycles—often intentionally designed to make us angry or fearful—you are deluged with a flood of information. During this season of history you are probably exposed to more world-wide coverage of cataclysmic events in a week than people from even 500 years ago heard about in a lifetime. The human brain simply wasn’t designed to be able to absorb that much information. Our hearts weren’t designed to carry the entire world on our shoulders. It’s time to consider what you can do to protect yourself from information overload.

And yet we are called to engage, we are called to care. We are not called to separate ourselves from the world and live in isolation and ignorance. How on earth do we balance these tensions? 

Protecting yourself from information overload

protecting yourself from information overload

Limit input

First, reflect on what you need in order to be “informed”? How much do you need to know and in how much detail? One important question to assess this issue is: What can I do something about? Taking in constant information that you can do nothing to change or influence brings on a sense of helplessness and exhaustion that can be debilitating. On the other hand, what CAN you do something about? For example, you can vote. So you do need to know when the elections will take place and enough about the candidates to know who you want to vote for. But do you need to hear the everyday blow-by-blow back and forth of he-said, she-said? Unless your job is in politics, probably not. 

Focus where you can make a difference

Other things you might want to do something about include volunteering or giving financially. So for example, if you have a heart for serving refugees, you might want to know when a large group of them will be arriving in your community. Not just knowledge for knowledge’s sake, but so you can DO something about it. At the same time, inundating yourself with all the details of every war and every natural disaster all over the world might yield nothing except damage to your mental health. So consider: What can you do? What are you willing to do? You will need to know enough to act on your beliefs. 

Once you have assessed what and how much you need to know, consider certain elements of the news and how you can choose—or not choose—to take it in. 

Consider the medium

Generally, our news comes to us by watching it, reading it, or listening to it. Reading the news is often less sensationalist than watching the news—that’s true regardless of where you find yourself on the political spectrum. Images have power, as do the expressions and tones of voice of the news presenters. At the same time, online links highlighted when reading the news can take you down lengthy rabbit holes. Consider what medium of taking in the news is best for you and try to limit it to just that one rather than all three.  

Consider the perspective

Try to find sources that are as objective as possible. I realize that is no easy task. Look for sources that just report what actually happened rather than putting a spin on it. Another option is to get news from a variety of different perspectives, although that can take longer. 

Consider the frequency

Do you remember when the newspaper landed on your doorstep once a day? Consider how many times a day you really need to take in the news, and maybe try to find a way to limit the frequency. For instance, if your chosen method of receiving news is listening via radio or podcast, maybe only listen to it on your commute home from work.  

Consider the timing

Most people check their phones first thing upon waking and last thing before going to sleep. What’s interesting about this timing is that it mirrors the devotional rhythms of much of Christian history. These are the times we traditionally heard scripture and prayed. It was a way of shaping ourselves spiritually before we went into the world and then anchoring ourselves again in our faith before going to sleep at night. Engaging in this cycle over time has an impact on shaping our character, who we are, and how we engage the world and others. What happens when we replace that practice with news consumption. Do we want to go into our day frightened, anxious, defensive, and angry? Or do we want to go in with the heart of Jesus for all of those who will come across our path that day? 

Be conscious about making the choices that are right for you. Those choices will probably look a bit different for everyone, depending on your temperament, your preferences, and your intended level of action.

Create digital boundaries

Turn off mobile phone notifications of “breaking news.”

Not everything is an emergency, and much of it you can’t do anything about anyway. Think about it: the number of times you need to take some immediate action based on a news alert is near zero. (Alerts such as wildfire evacuation notices will arrive via your cell phone regardless of your chosen notifications.) 

Remove news apps from your phone.

If you compulsively check the news apps on your phone whenever you have a free minute, remove them and find other way to occupy your mind during those times in your day. 

Remove news articles from your browser tabs.

Have you noticed how when you open a new page on your browser, it will sometimes automatically default to showing sensational news items? The targeted set of articles it chooses to display to you in particular are generally geared toward what will upset you most and get you to click it.) There are ways of changing your settings so news does not appear unless you look for it. Google how to do that with your particular browser. 

Set up Do Not Disturb

Choose a time once a day to take in news and limit it to that timeframe only. For instance, you could subscribe to a once-a-day news digest that gets sent to you. 

Turn it off

Try a news blackout for a week and see how it impacts you. (You can ask a friend to tell you if anything truly crucial happens.) 


Select and limit the sources of your news intake. A friend of mine is most easily upset by US partisan politics, so she now gets all of her news from the BBC. She finds it provides the world news she wants, buts covers only very important developments in US politics—and with a good deal more detachment than American news outlets.  

In the time I was writing this blog entry, a “breaking news alert” flashed across my phone announcing that a sports figure will be switching teams. Did I need to know that right at that very moment? No. Did I need to let that announcement break the flow of my thought and my day and the task at hand? No. I think I’ll turn off my breaking news alerts. 

The writer of Hebrews warns us about distractions in Hebrews 12:1: Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.


Guide for Discipling– You may be yearning for a simpler time. While you can’t slow down the world, you can learn to focus on what God has called you to do. This guide covers the 8 key areas that Jesus focused on in his discipleship of the apostles. Go back to the basics of Experiencing God and then partner with the Holy Spirit in where you need to grow next: sacrificial serve, generous giving, disciplemaking, personal transformation, community transformation, or authentic relationships.\

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash