The other day, I found myself with higher than usual anxiety. I was staring at my altar wondering why I hadn’t visited it in a week – or was it longer than a week? I’ll admit that I don’t have a daily Practice… it’s more like a sometimes, usually, maybe, multiple times in a week Practice. But I often do something at my altar at least once a week. And then, sometimes I don’t.
This particular time, I realized that I had not been listening to my usual spiritual podcasts and YouTube channels. Instead, I had been doubling down on political news. I hadn’t even been reading any books! I let the politics of the day consume my free thoughts. I live in the US so you can imagine what kind of stuff I was filling my thoughts with. Even on a good day, the press is full of rhetoric, shock stories, and frustrated people. It’s not the best kinds of thoughts to fill your brain.
I have learned that when my anxiety spikes, I look at what I’m reading and listening to. These days, high anxiety often means that I’m consuming too much political media or I was too focused on the latest internet uproar. This time, it was definitely too much political news.
A good way for me to get back on track is to surround myself with spiritually focused media. So I browsed the Patheos Pagan and Pagan Blogger sites, I listened to spiritually oriented podcasts, and I read books on spiritual topics. I increased my spiritually focused entertainment options. I also pulled in more media on subjects that I really enjoy – more knitting podcasts, more Harry Potter, more mythology podcasts. I didn’t eliminate the political streams entirely since I believe that it is vital to stay informed, but I did significantly reduce them. I focused more on topics that fed my soul and focused less on what hurts my heart.
Social media and news media are constantly bombarding us with what they want us to focus on. It’s very easy to just go with the flow and watch what’s trending. But one of the things that I think is critical for any pagan, especially for us tech and urban pagans, is intentionality. We can intentionally select the media that we read, watch, and listen to. We can deliberately consider the impact that that media has on our hearts and souls. We can intentionally focus on our goals and priorities.
It’s important to stay abreast of the political developments, but can we do so in a way that doesn’t tear us apart? What is the best balance of watching the news and looking pictures of my adorable new cousin? Or photos of cute baby animals making silly faces? I am the only person who can make that decision for myself. In the same way, you are the only person who can find that balance for yourself.
Consider this before you watch that next video or scroll through your news feed: ask yourself if it lifts up your heart, or feeds your soul. If it doesn’t, then ask yourself if it’s necessary. You (I) do not need to watch yet another video telling you (me) about the latest crazy thing that the government has done. The first video might have been necessary, so you know what is going on, but do you really need a third one?
Take a moment and consider. Be intentional in your media consumption, and your stress and anxiety levels will thank you.