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Take a break from the noise sometimes

Some states have begun to loosen their grip on businesses and some social activities during the coronavirus epidemic.

Maryland, wisely, has not done so yet. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has been leaning forward as an effective leader during the crisis so far, keeping a step or two ahead of the curve to safeguard public health and safety. The county health department, too, has been effective in getting the word out about social distancing and controlling the spread of COVID-19. Nobody’s jumping the gun here. After all, let’s not kid ourselves that this thing is anywhere close to being over. Cases are still on the rise, and health officials are telling us that taking our foot off the gas too soon could lead to dangerous consequences. The coronavirus isn’t operating by our calendar. It clearly has it own schedule.

At The Recorder, we are continuing to provide you with the latest information about the pandemic in our area, with unprecedented free access to our website for coronavirus news and features. We’re here for you when you want us. Just click the site or pick up the paper.

But saying that, we also want you to relax and take a break from COVID-19 news from time to time. Author Joe McCormack offers some suggestions for preventing ourselves from becoming oversaturated with too much consumption of news on one subject. He warns about the dangers of tracking too many updates. And that’s not hard to do, considering national news and social media chatter about infection rates, death tolls, travel restrictions, stock market swings and all sorts of ominous predictions on how dire the pandemic may still get.

“Events like the coronavirus show us how vital it is to own our mental bandwidth and manage our attention,” McCormack writes. “We need to know what’s going on and to react appropriately, but coronavirus coverage is not the only thing that matters.

He offers some tips on how to deal with the onslaught:

• Understand how overconsumption of bad news affects you. When something becomes the only thing, it becomes everything, McCormack says. The temptation to sit in front of the TV and consume all day long is huge. You hear all sorts of things that aren’t relevant, timely or accurate. And so many waking hours are spent anxious, nervous and anticipating the worst, you can start to miss all the other stuff in your life.

• Don’t confuse predictions with certainty. There’s an adage that the acronym FEAR can stand for “false evidence appearing real.” People tend to make dire predictions with such surety that you could start to believe them, McCormack says. But come on. There were other past flus and viruses that were supposed to decimate humanity, but didn’t.

• Temper your consumption. Thanks to the 24/7 news cycle, you’re likely to see the same story reported a dozen times and said in a dozen slightly different ways. But if you’re tempted to blame the media, don’t. It’s their job. It’s your job to manage your consumption: to decide when to watch, what to watch, and when to turn off the TV, shut down the computer and walk away. He advises: “Create filters for what’s information and what’s useless noise and live by them.”

• Focus on the facts. Find one good source you trust and stay abreast of the situation. Pay attention to what you can control: regular hand washing, reasonably stocking up on food and other supplies and so forth. If you can’t impact it, don’t focus on it.

• Change the subject when you want to. Don’t pile on. Be the voice of calm and reason. If people won’t drop the subject, have a few reassuring talking points in reserve to help put things in perspective and defuse fear. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website, “The risk of getting the coronavirus in the U.S. is currently low … There are simple things you can do to help keep yourself and others healthy.”

So be a healthy and reasonable consumer of the news about the coronavirus. Get all you need locally from The Recorder in print and online, and then be a wise gatekeeper of everything else that’s being said and reported about the epidemic. Stay safe and calm. We’ll be back to normal at some point.