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Listen to the radio, watch the news, or peruse social media, and you will be slammed with information overload.
There is a phenomenon called doomscrolling, which is defined as deliberately seeking out bad news stories, whether it is about the pandemic, violence, financial downturns, or political conflict.
The person may be oblivious to the deleterious effect until someone points it out, or they may be completely aware, but like many who thrive on chaos, pursue it as a protective device.
They may think, “If I am aware of the danger around me, I can protect myself from it.” Paradoxically, it feeds on fear. It can become an addiction when people check out the news feed, whether on social media or radio or TV news upon awakening, throughout the day, and before bed. Lost sleep, increased anxiety, the desire to endlessly discuss what they have heard or read contribute to the vicious cycle. Many see it as a way of bonding with others in the same boat, echoing the “misery loves company” trope.
As with any addiction, it can be addressed. If at all possible, take a news fast. Do a cost-benefit analysis. How is this helping me versus what it costs me in time, energy, stability, sleep, and relationships? Spend time with positive people and engage in activities that offer a sense of hope. Redirect your attention. Seek out positive news stories—of people rising to the occasion and helping each other, of patients recovering from COVID-19, of peaceful resolution to conflicts. Involve yourself with people who find solutions rather than just bemoaning the state of the world.
Mental health issues that are circumstantial in nature, such as trauma responses to life events, can be addressed with the guidance of a professional therapist, and in support of advocacy groups such as NAMI. (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
During the pandemic, mental health crises have intensified, with isolation and fear of contracting COVID-19, as well as having lost ones as a result, as contributing factors. The societal impact is incalculable as nearly three years later, people are still politicizing the wearing of masks and receiving vaccines.
As much as we would like to declare victory over the virus, it has not laid down its weapons and surrendered. When we come together in mutual support, rather than allowing a disease to divide us, we are better able to regain and maintain psychological well-being. Some see taking the aforementioned precautions as pro-social and of benefit to the individual and the community, while others balk at feeling controlled.
Some questions to ask yourself:
>> How am I an active participant in the shaping of society in positive and mutually beneficial ways?
>> How do I express what that environment would look like in words and actions?
>> Are the needs of the people around me important and can I balance meeting my own needs with meeting theirs?
>> What can I do to ease my body and brain as they both absorb and process what is going on around me?
>> What brings me joy?
>> How do I prevent energetic overload that can spill over into my interactions with others?
>> What can I do instead of allowing myself to be bombarded with information coming at me 100 mph?
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi