Limit the doom – are you doomscrolling?
Yesterday, I learned a new term. It is ‘doomscrolling‘, and it has a sister term ‘doomsurfing’. These new verbs have found their way into our vocabularies due to the seemingly insatiable appetite that we’ve developed for Covid-19 related updates. But it’s not just the endless, mindless hours that we’ve been spending scrolling in search of the bad news, we’ve been listening to news on the TV, or accessing our news apps way more than even before. It’s absolutely time to limit the doom.
As human beings, we have a survival instinct, and this instinct keeps us alert to threat. It’s responsible for the need to check in with what’s going on with the world, in a bid to protect ourselves and our loved ones from danger. But doomscrolling is wreaking havoc with our mental health.
Is it really important to limit the doom?
I saw this effect from the beginning of the pandemic. People were feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Not just because of what was happening, but because they couldn’t stop thinking about it. They were living with the very real psychological effects of too much exposure to bad news. Some were checking in with it for most of the day, every day.
How do we balance the need to know, with the need to keep our mental health in good shape? We get the information in a controlled manner. We access the news (from a reliable source) say once a day, for maybe 20-30 minutes, and then we come away from it. All the news updates we need will be there in that allotted time each day, we will still be in a position to make wise choices. More importantly, we will be protecting ourselves from low-level anxiety.
The sense of powerlessness that comes with the inability to do anything to change things can leave us exhausted, demotivated and without sleep. During lockdown, we focussed on creating good routines for ourselves including managing our expectations and seeking the little things that make us feel good. Spending hours listening or reading bad news is doing nothing to help, and everything to hinder, and it’s nearly impossible to balance the scale with enough ‘feel good factor’ to cancel out the damage. So yes, it really is time to limit the doom.
Social media has been particularly unhelpful through this period as it offers up doom when we may not even be searching for it. Several of my clients have been forced into a total ‘social media detox’. They’ve had to delete their apps altogether as they’ve found themselves checking into say Twitter or Facebook without even realising they were doing it. This is how powerful our habits become, and habits like these are not serving us.
So, from the start I have suggested keeping updated once a day, at the end of the day for a limited period. In fact this is my general rule of thumb for social and other news media. Remember, they don’t tend to report ‘good’ news. Were we given statistics each day how many people had beaten it the past 24 hours? Let’s think about that and keep perspective.
Things aren’t that different, we just hear about it more
Finally, here’s a great TedTalk that one of my clients told me about. It helped him greatly, as he too was becoming overwhelmed by all the doom. The world really isn’t that much worse, we just get to hear about it more.
Limit the doom!