2020 has been one of the most chaotic years in recent history. At the beginning of the year, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, and it continues to sweep our nation with no end in sight. Amid an intensely acrimonious election season, the economy has teetered on the verge of collapse, wildfires have ravaged the western U.S. and massive public protests have highlighted the need for racial justice and an end to police brutality.
In these circumstances, you might think staying hyper-aware of the news is making you more prepared for what might lie ahead – but in reality, it could be detrimental to your mental health. A phenomenon dubbed “doomscrolling” became a habit for many people starting with widespread coronavirus lockdowns in mid-March, and in the months since, it’s only intensified. The immediacy of social media has given us all a front-row seat to the global crises of 2020, but that might not be helping you stay mentally balanced.
Is Social Media Helping, or Hurting?
Social media platforms have brought the world closer together, allowed people to stay in touch with friends and family and connected users with shared interests. However, plenty of evidence suggests that social media use also leads to higher levels of anxiety and depression.
Some groups have even found a way to use platforms like Facebook and YouTube to distribute propaganda, conspiracy theories and an extremist worldview to a broad audience. The more time you spend interacting with social media, the higher your chances of experiencing adverse effects.
For many people, use of these platforms is so ingrained that it’s become mindless. That could be the case for you if your phone is the first thing you reach for in the morning, and the last thing you see before you close your eyes at night. Some people turn to social media when they have nothing better to do. Most people even use their phones or tablets while they’re watching TV, instead of paying full attention to the movie or show that’s on.
What to Do Instead of Doomscrolling
When you doomscroll, you’re deliberately stepping into a daily tsunami of sadness and anger. If you’re already prone to anxiety or depression, the negativity can pull you under quickly and can lead to panic attacks and disrupted sleep. What can you do instead?
- Go outside: Being in nature can naturally boost your mood. Even spending a short time in the sunshine and fresh air is beneficial. Whether you go for a walk or spend a few minutes meditating, doing it outdoors will help relieve pent-up stress and tension.
- Recognize what you can control: For the most part, the circumstances you’re feverishly reading about are out of your hands. If you start feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of the things that lie within your power to control. For example, if the political climate is a source of anxiety for you, vote and donate time or money to candidates you support.
- Focus on the now: Take steps to be more mindful throughout the day, instead of worrying about worst-case scenarios that might never come to pass. Make your bedroom a tech-free zone, so you don’t feel tempted to check your devices at all hours.
- Rely exclusively on reputable news sources: If you only get your information from social media, you might see conflicting headlines from different news sources and have trouble determining which – if either – is accurate. It’s time to step outside that bubble and find dependable, consistent reporting.
Renew Your Life
If the upheavals of 2020 have caused increased mental anguish or led you toward a reliance on drugs or alcohol to deal with difficulties in your life, discover freedom at Vista Taos Renewal Center. We’ll create a personalized, holistic plan to help you address your unique needs in recovery. Contact us to learn more about substance abuse treatment in Taos, New Mexico.