The onslaught of pandemic-related news along with a worldwide hyper-focus on staying up-to-date has resulted in an increased anxiety and stress response for many. There’s this notion that the more information we consume, the better prepared we will be, regardless of how we’re feeling emotionally. From a mental health perspective, the opposite can be true.
In addition to receiving COVID-related information from all directions, most of us are connected through multiple devices during the majority of our waking hours, and we may find several aspects of this interconnectedness to be triggering. Headlines and clickbait can make us feel as if our world is falling apart; commercials on television urge us to purchase more when so many of us have less; posts from friends or influencers who are continually exercising, organizing, baking, or doing “extra stuff” can cause us to believe we’re not doing “enough stuff” — you get the idea.
If you’ve found yourself feeling overwhelmed or anxious from the overload of information, whether it’s stress-filled news headlines or toxic-positivity messaging that elicits feelings of comparison and inadequacy, being mindful and intentional about your daily consumption of technology may be helpful. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Set Time-Limits
Figure out how long you’d like to spend watching television, browsing the internet, or scrolling through your phone, and set a timer. This helps us stay mindful of how we’re spending our time, and then we’re better able to make a conscious choice when the timer goes off: do I want to continue scrolling, or would I rather set this down and shift my attention to something else?Once you’ve decided to limit the time you’re spending in front of certain devices or apps, you may find that you’d like to be more intentional about how you use that time. Instead of browsing through content that doesn’t serve us, which may spark unwanted emotions, we might prefer to find something more engaging to spend this time on, like a yoga class, an art class, or even this class on well-being, offered by Yale University at no cost. How can we spend our tech-time in a way that will benefit us or add value to our lives?
- Hit the “Unfollow” Button
Another way to be more intentional about media consumption is to begin noticing when you experience anxiety or discomfort when faced with certain types of content. Then, you can decide to mute, block or unfollow social media accounts as you see fit; not necessarily so that you’ll never view their content again (unless that’s what you prefer) but to prevent it from popping up when you haven’t sought it out. Whether it’s a fitness or fashion influencer that brings up comparison issues, a news account with headlines that causes feelings of panic or distress, or social media notifications that distract us from more rewarding activities, hitting that “unfollow” button, turning off notifications, or setting up a site-blocker can help us set some boundaries to control the daily deluge.Alternatively, consider adding in some good news media like John Krasinski’s Some Good News or Good Good Good Co., positive daily affirmations, or other sources that can help combat pessimistic energy and bring about optimistic thinking.
- Step Away from the Screens
No matter the purpose, we should all be mindful of how much time we spend in front of screens. Studies* have shown that excessive screen use can contribute to deteriorating eyesight, headaches, sleep troubles, and more. In multiple ways, it is healthy to designate time away from screens.Even if it’s just for a few minutes, try to close your eyes for a power nap, meditate, take a walk, or do some stretching. If you’re able to step away for a half hour or so, perhaps you can use that time to do something that adds value to your day, like a favorite hobby that lets you incorporate movement, foster creativity, or generate relaxation – sans screens.
Technology is unavoidable in this day and age, and with so many working from home or using tech to stay in touch with others, its benefits are clear. The idea is not to deny ourselves the things we enjoy, but to truly figure out what brings us happiness and fulfillment versus what is simply distracting or ultimately causing stress. It’s all about balance.
If you find that challenging emotions surrounding technology use and being homebound are lingering despite these tips, you may benefit from the support of a mental health professional. Ethos clinicians are offering virtual therapy, and we’re here to help you through this time. Tap here to contact us confidentially.
Taylor Johnson, LSW, CADC-C is a clinician at Ethos Wellness – River North specializing in co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. As an adoptee, she also finds it very gratifying to work with children and families of adoption. Read more about Taylor and the rest of the River North team.
*Sources: Chang et al, 2015 and Sheppard & Wolffsohn, 2018