If endless months of staying in has sucked you into depressing rabbit holes of online negativity, you’re not alone. Our new columnist – the Los Angeles based Brit Gordon Fraser – shares some tips to help regain your mental wellbeing until everything gets back to normal.
Most of us have been on the Corona-Coaster for more than a year. If you’re in the UK you are only just beginning to get out more (and we know that if you’re reading this in certain parts of there world you may not be so fortunate) but, either way, our physical world has become smaller but paradoxically larger and scarier as we retreat into our bedrooms and into our virtual universes. For many people, retreating into the online world has not been good for our mental wellbeing.
I became aware of my “Doomscrolling” or “Doomsearching” during the Black Lives Matter Protests (and the LA Riots which followed); these had me glued to CNN, MSNBC and all the local news channels until I was demented by myself!
Destructive, frightening and negative.
I was actively searching for and lapping up every terrifying and destructive piece of frightening and negative data I could find about where the next march would be, what stores had been ransacked and who was going to be next.
I rationalised this distraction by persuading myself that we all need to be informed, and as I lived in Hollywood it was prudent to do but this was “extra”; it really was like an obsession and I think I must have been getting some sort of masochistic pleasure from the terror and fear I was putting myself through until I started realising just how this was really effecting me: my sleep patterns were deteriorating, my anxiety levels were on the rise, I became tired and unproductive (because I wasn’t sleeping) and had a little chaser of low lying depression thrown in for good measure.
The first step to recovery, they say, is realising you’ve got a problem and then once you’ve rung that bell of awareness you can’t unring it. This means you can start looking for a solution.
When you find yourself burrowing through the foxholes and warrens of social media and online video channels, the remedy I would recommend is to stop yourself and find a distraction to change your mood.
- When I go on YouTube or Instagram now, I put a time limit on, to create some sort of a balance, I might give myself, say 15-30 mins of surfing and some days I make them search free. It’s the same with the TV. I only watch the 6 or 10 o’clock news. That’s it.
- If I can, I’ll take a brisk walk around the block for about 15 minutes without looking at my phone. This will always change my perspective and mood.
- Wash the dishes, clean out the fridge, vacuum, reorganise a cupboard…again it’s finding a distraction to change your focus and simultaneously, I’ll play an educational podcast to fire up my brain and oxygenate it in a different way.
- Read a book. This is a great way to reduce anxiety and enhance your mental wellbeing – try 20 pages and at any speed you like and see how you feel.
- Learn something new: a language, a new skill, an instrument, play cards, draw, paint, journal, write…there are lots of things we can do that doesn’t involve spending vast amounts of money and can be done indoors at any time. Imagine spending 30 minutes per night learning French rather than scrolling through Facebook – can you imagine the different choices and great news experiences you could have after a few months of compounded time learning this new skill – it’s far better than the same amount of time spent doomscrolling…
- Positive affirmations. If you are (and we all are) being subjected to negativity, make sure you address the balance for your mental wellbeing. I combat this by playing binaural beats and positive affirmations in the background as I work – this raises my spirits and keeps me focused and positive and, in some ways, creates a level of equilibrium.
Prepare yourself for bed.
As adults we sometimes have to parent ourselves. It’s quite good fun. I often talk to myself, and tell myself, “RIGHT, BED GORDON!” My mother used to attempt to instil some sort of ritual before bed. To my shame, I woefully abandoned this 30 years ago…but this is what I do now.
- Set up a night-time setting on your phone. My phone has a bedtime setting, which I love. It comes on 30 minutes before bed and this reminds me to start the process of winding down. It also means I won’t be able to take any calls, texts or messages because the setting stops them from coming through (if there are any, you’ll see them all in the morning when you wake up and if there is someone who may need to reach you in the case of an emergency – they can be programmed as an exception and their calls will reach you).
- Turn off the TV and close down your computer – that’s the discipline. Walking away or putting down the thing that’s distracting us the most is essential!
- Clean your teeth and wash your face. Moisturise if that’s what you usually do. This means there’s going to be no more food or cups of tea for you, mate. This is another sign to yourself that the day’s activities are done and dusted and you are going to bed. Waking up in the morning looking refreshed (or even younger) rather than like Alice Cooper (and without feeling like your teeth are wearing clothes) is a lovely sensation and will make you feel good!
- Get into bed and read a book or magazine that is completely unrelated to whatever your obsession is. I like to read a history magazine, although it doesn’t really matter because I find it really difficult to read in bed and not fall asleep. Maybe you might too.
Mental wellbeing matters.
Remember, our mental health is just as important as our physical health – it’s all interconnected and it’s really important that we feed it well.
Many experts say that mind health is also linked to gut health. Think of it this way, if you value your body you might not shovel 48 chicken nuggets down your throat every day for lunch and then hope to wear those skinny jeans and feel fabulous. Well, the same can be said for your mind – negative news, conspiracy theories and fear-based information…if this is what you’re feeding your mind it’s not going to create good quality thinking and the algorithms are only going to feed you exactly what you want.
So, there you have it. Choose to be the master of the information you put in your mind or the information will be the master of you.
Poirot reruns here I come..!
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