These days, my typical morning routine includes Googling whether it’s safe to venture outside today and if there are COVID-19 cases on the rise, followed by how much closer we are to discovering if we’ve found a vaccine, and finally, scouring articles to figure out if there are any long-term consequences of using so much hand sanitizer. And then before I know it, I’m seeking out more of this depressing and potentially negative info, even though I know it’s not helping with my sanity. Apparently, there’s even a term to describe this kind of behavior: doomscrolling. Merriam-Webster defines doomscrolling as “the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing.” While I truly believe that knowledge is power, too much of anything can be detrimental to one’s health. In fact, going overboard with this kind of activity can have negative consequences on one’s mental and physical well-being, especially in these scary times.
As tempting as it may be to constantly hit refresh, we don’t have to stay stuck in this endless cycle of terror and misery. There is a way out, and that’s to cultivate an awareness of this type of toxic behavior and make a conscious decision to press the pause button on all the craziness that surrounds us. Betches spoke with Dr. Eudene Harry, Medical Director for Oasis Wellness and Rejuvenation Center, and Dr. Braulio Mariano Mejia, Medical Director of The Palm Beach Institute, specializing in Addiction Medicine for insight into what’s going on with our minds and bodies. They shined some light on what to do when the line between staying informed and ruining your mental health becomes blurred and offered us some tactics on how to set healthy boundaries between us and the news.
How To Recognize When The News Is Making Us Feel Bad
It can be difficult to attribute our emotions directly to the news—oftentimes we’ll think our negative feelings are caused by another trigger. While some types of news can conjure obvious and overt reactions, other times, the feelings can be subtle, like a slow and steady burn. Dr. Harry says that it’s important to check in with yourself frequently. She says, “ask yourself if you felt bad after watching the news. Did you feel motivated to act or did it leave you feeling drained and paralyzed? Are you feeling depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, helpless or apathetic? Is your heart racing? Does breathing feel shallow, fast and not enough?” These are the sorts of physiological cues she says you should pay attention to.
Additionally, Dr. Mariano Mejia says that there are behavioral and physical attributes that could be indicative of your emotional upheaval: “ask yourself, ‘have I been alienating my loved ones?’ ‘Have I been isolating from those I care about?’ ‘Have I been neglecting my family?’ ‘Have I been slacking at work?’ ‘Have I been having difficulty sleeping?’ ‘Has there been a change in my libido/sexual interest?’ Have there been any recent weight fluctuations?’” All of this matters and it’s important to take time for yourself to answer these questions honestly. It’s like going through your own personal mental checklist (it may also help to run through this aloud or write it down). If you’re answering yes to any of these questions, both doctors advise that you should regroup and recharge, stat.
Actually, It’s About Introspection
Dr. Mariano Mejia says that the first thing to understand about doomscrolling is that it speaks to our human nature more than anything else. “This phenomenon is more about the need to have some introspection. It’s about recognizing the need to stop for a second and ask yourself if repetitive news (fake or not) is necessary to get you emotionally or professionally where you want to be.”
The most important thing here is to determine whether this information will make a difference in the comfort of your professional and personal life. If not, you can do without this unhelpful stimuli. Dr. Mariano Mejia points out that we as humans have a tendency to obsess over minute things in our lives and that “in order to reduce our anxiety we act on these obsessions, which is a compulsion. In this instance, this compulsive behavior to turn to the media/news evolves into a negative pattern, thus creating a temporary relief.” However, if this tendency is left unaddressed, he says that it could lead to negative consequences.
The good news is that conversely, with this same ability, you can train your brain to be a more healthy and balanced one, simply by actively recognizing that you have the power and opportunity to step away from anything you deem to be detrimental to your health. “Introspection is more than simply taking a break. It requires you to stop, evaluate your conscious thoughts and feelings,” Dr. Mariano Mejia remarks. “This process allows you to look at yourself in order to determine what is most important in your life.” In a nutshell, think of it as an empowered “you do you” sentiment.
Why You Have All Of These Feels
Dr. Harry says, “your body and mind are being overwhelmed, and as a result, it is constantly activating the stress response system over and over again, continuously flooding the mind and the body with stress hormones.” She references clinical studies from Harvard and the National Library of Medicine in which voluntary participants were shown stress-inducing/upsetting pictures and videos. Though they were not actually subjected to the turmoil itself, ultimately, viewing upsetting material resulted in the body exhibiting the same level of heightened stress and trauma. She surmised from these studies that if these feelings are left to fester, it can result in an increased risk of developing psychological trauma, anxiety disorders, depression and other psychological conditions—as well as physical ailments such as heart disease and diabetes.
Ok, So I Feel Like Sh*t—How Do I Make It Better?
Say it with me: SELF-CARE. It’s not just some buzzword we see hashtagged to death on Instagram, but a real and positive force that can truly help with our health and wellness if we embrace it.
sometimes self care is an everything bagel
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) May 16, 2020
Create A Routine That Works For You
Dr. Mariano Mejia says that this can include proper hygiene, good nutrition, regular exercise, and healthy social interactions. Examples of healthy social interactions include interactions that limit exposure to negative people, maintaining positive conversations, and setting boundaries with your peers.
Quality Over Quantity
Dr. Harry says to rely on a trusted news source and consume it for 10 to 20 minutes a day to gather the highlights. Additionally, Dr. Mariano Mejia says that when you do seek out information, stick to factual content rather than opinion-based or emotionally biased stories. “A reliable source such as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) would be recommended, but on a limited basis,” he explains. “Official information as it changes and advances on the studies of the novel coronavirus will not take place minute to minute or even hourly,” so there’s no need to obsessively hit that refresh button. He says you can also control how you remain informed by simply consulting your medical professional/family physician. Additionally, you can consider using free resources, such as Nurses On-Call.
Dr. Harry advises against starting and ending the day with your news (lol, I suppose I’m doing this wrong then). She says, “you want to set (an optimistic) tone for your day. Starting it with potentially startling content gives you no time to prepare how to approach your day. As a result, you have immediately engaged your stress and vigilance systems that can leave you feeling edgy, jumpy, and anxious all day.”
Get Your Beauty Rest
This is related to timing and is why we shouldn’t be inundating our brains with news before going to bed at night or when we get up in the morning. “Sleep is incredibly important; however, it will be difficult to get sound slumber if you’ve just flooded your brain with potentially traumatizing information and events,” says Dr. Harry. It can be a lot to process and can leave you tossing and turning all night. She adds, “it’s also another sure-fire way to increase your risk of inflammation and illness.”
Unplug And Shut Down All The Things
The world can be a Debbie Downer sometimes, so if you want to chill out for the day and decompress, absolutely go for it. “That’s completely okay—take even a few days and go offline from all media to regain your equilibrium. No one knows how you are feeling but you. So find out what works for you,” offers Dr. Harry.
You Are Not Alone
Through these challenging times, it’s understandable to seek out answers and information to decrease feelings of anxiety and to feel more comforted. However, you don’t have to go it alone: “don’t hesitate to seek out support. If you are still having difficulties and can’t seem to break free or reduce the negative impact on your own, you may benefit from seeking the assistance of a trained and qualified mental health professional,” says Dr. Mariano Mejia.
Peace And Pleasure
Yeah, we’ve all been baking to reduce the stress, but it keeps us cooped up inside. Dr. Harry says that as an alternative, why not consider simply getting outside (safely) for an easy means of decompression? “This may be a nature walk, time with friends via a social distancing/park gathering, meditating, yoga/breathing deeply, and art (painting/pottery), etc.” It’s about actively distancing yourself from the negative cycle and instead, doing something that brings you peace and a sense of calmness. “More importantly, these activities give your body the chance to recover and reset,” she explains.
Doomscrolling may sound like some apocalyptic reckoning, but just remember that ultimately, you have the power to wield control over your thoughts and feelings. We may all be susceptible to this zombie-like trance of doomscrolling, but all it takes is a gentle reminder to pull ourselves out of this rut, turn off our smart devices and the news, and reconnect with elements of our humanity that fill us with joy. We got this.
Anxiety is like the girl who consistently shows up to your parties uninvited. No one ever asks her to come, but you know she’ll always turn up. For me, that uninvited anxiety is a daily party crasher in my life. Joy. And if you’re anything like me, every living person who learns you have anxiety offers some kind of tip to help reduce anxiety. “I’ve heard weighted blankets really help” or “have you tried drinking more water?” While these all (usually) tend to be genuine tips, the overload of information to help reduce anxiety is, well, anxiety-inducing. So from one anxious person to another, here are some tips that I have found help me, that aren’t just the deep breathing and counting to 10.
1. Get More Sleep
I know. This one can be super difficult to achieve because your mind probably races at night with the million and one things you need to do (or said three years ago that you’re still embarrassed by). While I try to fall asleep, I make checklists of what I need to do, plan my outfits for the week, and/or revisit the status of my dreams and accomplishments. But I’ve found a miracle worker. I’ve been obsessed with the “Sleep with Me” podcast. It’s essentially a dude telling you a bedtime story in a super monotone voice, but he just rambles and goes off into tangents so you don’t actually need to pay attention. I couldn’t even tell you what the stories are about, because I am never awake long enough to know. It sounds dumb, but every time I put it on, I’m asleep within five minutes.
2. Try Some Essential Oils
Saje Unwind Smoothing Face & Body Mist
While I don’t swear by essential oils, I do feel like they can help. Smelling essential oils initiates an almost immediate response in your brain of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine (aka the feel-good chemicals). This one from Saje is my personal favorite because it doesn’t need a diffuser so it can be used pretty much anywhere. This mist combines hints of lavender for relaxation, orange to brighten your mood, and bergamot to relieve stress. I love spraying this on my pillow before going to bed for an extra boost of anxiety-reducing power.
3. Ease Up On The Coffee
You know the jitters you get from having too much caffeine? Since coffee is a stimulant, it can trigger your “fight-or-flight” response which can be bad news for anyone with anxiety. Additionally, too much coffee can make you moody, hyper-aware, and nervous, and it can make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Aka all things that someone with anxiety does not need help with.
4. Get Moving
I hate myself for including this one on the list, but it really is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a workout class feeling anxious af and leaving feeling so much better. It increases endorphins (aka nature’s Xanax) which boosts your mood and helps you sleep better. Go to a workout class or the gym, take the stairs, or just walk more. Whatever you do, the more you move, the better you feel.
Blame It On Limit The Alcohol
Having a nice
bottle glass of wine after work or a cold beer to unwind is sometimes a necessity. I get it. We’ve all been there. But in reality, alcohol can wreak havoc on your anxiety. Alcohol is a depressant, which lowers your mood and can temporarily make you forget about your stress. While this may be effective in the short term, once the alcohol wears off, you’ll be worse off. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, and low blood sugar are just some symptoms you may experience, which we have all probably experienced at one point, but did you know there’s such thing as an emotional hangover too? Yeah, turns out alcohol can make you anxious once it wears off. Great.
6. Avoid Sugar
If you are an emotional eater like I am, this one might be the hardest tip to help reduce anxiety, but I swear it helps. Although the copious amounts of ice cream may feel like just what you need in the moment, it’ll make you feel a hell of a lot worse in about 15 minutes (not unlike our good friend alcohol). The crash you experience after eating a ton of sugar is worse than Brit’s breakdown when she shaved her head. The drastic swing in your blood sugar increases cortisol and adrenal levels—aka you feel tired, lightheaded, and sick. Sound like similar symptoms to a panic attack?
Remember, what helps me might not help you. Sometimes, all you need is a good cry or an episode of Keeping Up to remind you that things could be a lot worse for you.
Images: Kinga Cichewicz / Unsplash; Giphy (3); Saje
Elections are upon us, and your stress level is increasing. Summer is way over and it’s getting cold AF, so you can’t lay out on the beach and soak up Vitamin D anymore. How on earth are you supposed to keep calm when everything is going to sh*t? By using your cell phone. Duh! We’ve found six of the best self-care apps that will help you chill TF out and get some much-needed zen back in your life.
Cleverly named after the fact that we all want to be in a good headspace, this app offers a bunch of really awesome features. It has everything from guided meditation to breath control, and of course, sleep aids. You can set three-, five- or ten-minute meditation sessions depending on
your attention span how long you want to meditate for. The entire app is full of super cute illustrations with happy clouds and little smiling blobs. I use it. I like it. So do my friends.
Calm has a five-star rating with over 174,000 reviews in the App Store, so I guess you can say it’s a pretty amazing self-care app. This one includes breathing exercises, nature sounds, and recorded storytellers who will lull you to sleep with bedtime stories. Use Calm to help manage anxiety and improve your sleep. You can even become a super chill meditation guru by taking master classes. You do have to pay for it, but it’s legit $5 a month, which is way less than an Ambien prescription.
Do you suck at meditating because you can’t stop thinking? Same. Enter, Muse. It’s an app that pairs with a special headset that links up to your heart rate, mental activity, body movements, and breathing. Basically, you turn it on and set how long you want to meditate. If the Muse device senses your mind wandering, it will give you real-time feedback as a gentle nudge to bring you back to center. It’s pretty f*cking amazing.
4. Insight Timer
With over four million users, Insight Timer is the largest meditation community on earth. It’s all about becoming ~one with yourself~ by teaching you the fundamentals of meditation, mindfulness, building confidence, and creating friendships (which you can do with other users on the app). One of the best features on this app is its ability to sort through topics like relationships, concentration, and mindful eating. There are a ton of world-renowned meditation guides and musicians available for you to follow, which is pretty cool for a free app.
The Grateful app literally trains you to count your blessings. We get so wrapped up in our daily lives that we forget to take note of all of the good stuff going on around us. It’s essentially a gratitude journal which gives you writing prompts. You’re asked questions, such as what you’re grateful for, what made you smile today, and what made your day so great. Download it. I promise you’ll be grateful you did (yeah that was a lame joke, whatever).
Not the “guided meditation” type of person? Don’t want to journal about how thankful you are? Play mind games instead. No, not the type you played with your ex—legit helpful ones. Happify presents activities and games that are backed by scientific studies to overcome negative thinking and stress to promote a positive lifestyle. This is a more fun, interactive app compared to the other five listed here.
No matter which of these self-care apps you download, find the one that works best for you and use it! Meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, and taking care of yourself are way more important than you think. Especially when you get so caught up in the throes of everyday life. Apps like these help to get you back in the right flow of positive mental, emotional, and spiritual vibes. Namaste, betches.