It can be hard to find something to smile about when there’s a ravaging virus on the loose. It can be even harder when political divisiveness, threats of terrorism, or mass shootings in malls, churches, and schools, seem like the least of your worries. And, of course, the B-roll footage of doctors wearing hazmat suits and N95 masks does not help.
This constant 24/7 exposure to the news and social media—platforms that are typically skewed towards the negative—can take a blow to your mental health. If you’re feeling more and more anxious about the state of our world, do not worry. You are not alone!
Is there a link between stress and watching the news?
Yes, there is! It’s not uncommon to have the urge to check and double-check your media feed for the latest catastrophe. However, this toxic habit can cause you to feel more stress than necessary.
While it IS important to stay updated on the current events of our planet or your country, it is also important to ensure that you do not feel overwhelmed. Searching for COVID-19 related symptoms on WebMD is definitely not going to help to improve your emotional well-being, if anything it will make it worse.
What are some of the psychological effects?
If you are frequently exposing yourself to 24/7 bad news, you might experience some of these symptoms (obviously, I am not a doctor so consult a medical professional):
Anxiety & Social Media
So… what is the link between the two? Do other people experience this? For those with social anxiety and feel more comfortable behind a computer screen, there may be a tendency to rely too much on social networking sites. This may lead to an over-dependence of online validation. Plus, especially during the current self-isolation measures, it may become a way to replace real-world connections.
Here are some strategies to help you limit your screen time:
Read a book or meditate in the morning.
Make it a habit, incorporate 30 minutes of your day to reading your favorite book. Check out my post Best Books to Read While Self-Isolating.
Meditation is also a great and healthy way to begin your morning routine! I recommend using Headspace if you are a beginner. This app has an easy interface and guides you through short 3-minute breathing exercises.
Download an app that turns off your phone.
Offtime is a great app to help control your phone addiction. It is compatible for both Android and iOS mobile devices. This app sets a timer that keeps your phone shut off to help you finish the task at hand.
Another app that I would highly recommend is Moment. It is only compatible for iOS mobile devices. It also has the added benefit of providing you with short, daily exercises.
Try to occupy your time with creative projects.
Do you like to draw? paint? create? This is the time! Use the hours that you have during quarantine to allow your creative side flourish. (I have currently taken up blogging consistently to divert my attention from the negative media).
This is also the time to learn some new skills. Here are some creative project ideas for inspo:
- Write a short story or a novel
- Create a bullet journal
- Make origami
- Paint or sketch
- Sew yourself a mask (this might actually be useful)
How can I manage my anxiety specifically related to the media?
Yes, you can. If you prioritize your mental health and overall well-being then you can reduce your anxiety. Try staying away from your TV or phone during this period. I know, it’s hard.
Here are some ways that you can break away from the 24/7 media and news coverage.
Staying physically active
Go outside and take a walk (remember to maintain 6ft of distance). It may seem tempting to stay indoors all day, but trust me when I say that getting outside can be the best remedy. It’s important to get some Vitamin D and fresh air.
If you have a dog, use this time to go on plenty of walks and get outside. You and your pet will need it!
Speak to a therapist or a friend (over zoom, of course!)
Feeling anxious? scared? concerned? Speak to a friend about how you are doing. You can also ask a buddy check-in with you every week. Try to schedule a time to talk over a teleconferencing app or text.
If you’re symptoms progress or you don’t feel as if you have anyone to reach out to, consider speaking to a therapist. Get professional help if necessary. When people struggle with social media depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome, or any other psychological condition, it can greatly diminish their quality of life. Speaking to someone might help alleviate some of that pent-up fear or anxiety.
Set time limits on your phone
As mentioned before, setting limits on your phone with apps is a great way to redirect your time. I would recommend getting off your phone for a minimum of two to three hours a day. It will also make you feel more productive!
Find new hobbies or projects to re-direct your focus
Is there a project that you started five years but never got around to finishing it? Now might be the time to revisit it.
With all this time on our hands, it may be tempting to waste it away browsing social media and refreshing the page. Try a new hobby that you have always been interested in starting.
If you still feel anxious and confused during this time, just remember, you are not the only one! We are all in the same situation (more or less) and everyone seems to be in a bit of a chaotic state at the moment. It’s important to prioritize your overall well-being and emotional health.
We can get through this, one day at a time. Just keep swimming.
Did you like this article? Check out my last blog post How to Scratch the Traveler’s Itch in Quarantine.