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3 Ways to Stop ‘Doomscrolling’ for Your Mental Health This Week

You’re glued to your phone.

This time, it isn’t because you’re hooked on the latest viral TikTok video or Netflix show; it’s because something stranger than fiction is taking place on Capitol Hill. Your timeline is full of memes, news updates and disturbing videos covering the insurrection on January 6, 2021. Rioters are breaking glass, pushing past and/or attacking police, and you hear that several people have died. But, you can’t look away. Even though you have responsibilities with school, work or family, you feel stuck in misery. It’s somewhat comfortable and at the same time, all too much. You’ve been caught up in what’s called “doomscrolling.”

According to Dr. Pamela Rutledge, “Searching for news in an environment brimming with scary and distressing content triggers anxiety. Anxiety increases the need to know to feel in control.” This is what I’ve been feeling all week as I fail to grasp onto any shred of control or agency. The algorithms of social media have me in their grasp, as I eat through op-eds, think pieces, videos and posts from friends. I’m met with a myriad of speculation, and sentiments like “America is better than this,” and “I can’t believe this could happen here.”

As a Black man, I’m not surprised. I’m not shocked by the inequitable treatment of the white protestors, known as the Proud Boys, who are treated disproportionately than Black and Brown protestors. I’ve seen myself reflected on the news as police brutalize unarmed Black protestors. And now, it seems as though people destroying Capitol Hill, some fully armed — some with zip ties in hand — are seemingly welcomed into the building. Anxiety has my lungs in its clutch, and I consider moving to weekly appointments with my therapist instead of monthly. All this and the year has just begun.

All this, and you might still be swept up in the flurry of headlines, arrests being made and calls for impeachment. And, that’s OK. It’s OK if you’ve been doomscrolling nonstop. At this point, still living in a pandemic with the death toll continuing to rise, it makes sense if you find yourself in a constant, unpredictable state of panic. We’re continuing to lose friends and family to an unseen virus, while laying witness to an elevated state of unrest, teetering on anarchy. Our anxiety is triggered from every post, and some of us are sinking deeper into depression, exacerbated by the seasonal change already impacting us.

So, what are we to do?

Here are three things which have helped me curb my doomscrolling this week:

1. Sticking with one or two sources of information.

I take my news in bite-size portions. I’ve found more peace in tuning into a five-minute news podcast which updates hourly, so I don’t have to view scenes of horror.

2. Leaving my phone in a different room.

Getting outside, making meals and cleaning have all been welcome distractions, and leave me feeling healthier too.

3. Accepting the mess.

I’m not perfect at this at all, but it’s been helpful for me to consider the things within my locus of control, and all that isn’t. This is the only way I’ve been able to get to sleep most nights. I ask myself: “What’s true for me right now?” “What is in my control?” “What moments brought me joy today?”

There is a world outside our phones. It’s hard to remember that these days, but we’re invited to hold onto hope, accept when we feel the surface beneath us is unstable and to intentionally forget our phone in the living room at some point this week.

Image Credits: Sinclair Ceasar III

Photo by Derick Anies on Unsplash