Why Reading The News Nonstop Is Bad For You—And How To Stop The Cycle

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

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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.

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

Timing Matters

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

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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.

Images: Bongkarn Thanyakij / Pexels; Chrishell Stause / Instagram; Diet Starts Tomorrow / Instagram (2); Tenor; Katy Perry / Twitter

6 Natural Ways To Decrease Anxiety

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.

5. 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

5 Signs You Have A Toxic Boss & How To Handle It

With the amount of time we spend at work each day, it’s no wonder that a boss can make or break the experience. It’s been said that people leave bosses rather than jobs, and the statistics back this up. According to a recent study, 60% of employees surveyed left or were considering leaving a job because of their direct supervisor. While it’s rare to have a perfectly ideal manager, there are certain characteristics that may indicate you are dealing with a truly toxic boss  . As someone who has had experience with more than one veritable nightmare of a human being challenging boss, I can personally attest to how all-consuming such a negative experience can be. Because I’m such a selfless person, I’ve come up with a list of common toxic boss traits as well as strategies to survive these monsters while deciding on next steps.

Sign #1: The Work Environment Palpably Shifts

Before your new boss, work was a sort of bearable pleasant place to be. But now the environment has changed sharply and suddenly. The way this change takes effect can differ, ranging from more overt behavior like yelling and disparaging employees, to more subtle behavior like an intensity that causes the whole department to feel stressed where they once felt comfortable and at ease. The key is that the environment has changed for the negative.

Sign #2: Micromanaging Becomes The Rule

This one can be infuriating. Despite all of your efforts to date, your boss can’t help but insert themself into tasks that you’re more than capable of completing and feels compelled to tell you how to do them. No matter how glowing your track record, a micromanager won’t be able to rise above their own insecurity and trust you to do your job, because they need to feel like they aren’t an insecure shell of a person important and call the shots.

Sign #3: Admitting They’re Wrong Is An Allergy

A toxic boss is incapable of acknowledging they are a human being who, like the rest of us, makes mistakes. Instead, he or she will gloss over their own errors, despite practically foaming at the mouth when it’s time to point out yours. The rules don’t seem to apply to them and they present themselves as almighty and infallible. In other words, they’re really fun at parties.

Sign #4: They Only Look Out for Number One

Instead of cultivating a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship with those who report to them, toxic bosses are only interested in making themselves look good. You only exist as an extension of them, and they treat you like a minion rather than a colleague. They’re only interested in having you validate their existence rather than help you with your career. Hierarchy is very important to this kind of boss and they won’t let you forget it. Some may even go so far as to take credit for your work.

Sign #5: Resistance Is Futile

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A good boss can take constructive feedback and internalize it. A toxic boss is incapable of doing this. No matter how articulately you express yourself, any criticism or pushback, however valid, is viewed as an attack and this kind of boss can’t hear it. In fact, when you do try and share a differing view, they may punish you later in an attempt to reassert their power. Reasoning with this type of boss is about as fruitful as reasoning with a toddler. Now, let’s get on to some useful strategies for dealing with these toxic bosses.

Strategy #1: Attempt An Honest Conversation

Admittedly, this might not be possible with certain bosses, especially those who shut down in the face of feedback. But if your boss has a glimmer of humanity, it might be worth trying to suss out the root of the disconnect, if only to bolster your argument later that you tried everything in your power to address the issue professionally and without outside intervention. It may even take several conversations, but if you can get an open dialogue going and your boss is willing to try to improve the relationship, it can pay dividends down the road.

Strategy #2: Mind The Patterns & Play The Game

After enough frustrating interactions, you will likely be able to see patterns in the way your boss likes things done or reacts to certain behaviors. For example, if you’re dealing with a typical narcissist, you can make them feel needed and validated and, therefore, less threatened by you, allowing you more space to do your job. It can be a tough pill to swallow at first, especially if you’re anything like me and hate being superficial with people. But think of it as something you are doing for yourself and your own well-being, rather than for your boss.

Strategy #3. Seek Out A Support Network

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Unless you’re dealing with a true psychopath, there’s a good chance you are not the sole target of your boss’ treacherous behavior. Don’t be afraid to confide in coworkers that you trust and rally around your colleagues when things are difficult. The camaraderie reminds you that you are not alone, making you less likely to spiral into a dark place. This can even be an opportunity to bond with coworkers you weren’t as close with before the toxic boss. Nothing unites people more than a common enemy and you may even be able to find some humor in your boss’ fugly haircut the situation as a means of relief.

Strategy #4: Go Outside Of Your Department

If the previous methods aren’t working or are simply impossible, it’s time to look to outside resources for support. In most cases, this will be the company’s HR department. While very few HR departments operate swiftly and effectively, the company should be aware and on notice of what is going on with your boss so it can be dealt with appropriately. It’s also good to have a record in the event you are terminated and believe it was retaliatory. If your company doesn’t have an HR department, confide in a colleague you trust who is at a comparable or higher level than your boss. He or she may have some insight or can serve as an ally later on if needed.

Strategy #5: Start Looking Elsewhere

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A toxic boss can wreak havoc on your mental health, and no job is worth paying that price. If the situation is untenable, leaving may be the only option. Of course, most of us are not Kylie Jenner and can’t afford to just up and quit our jobs. Put a plan in place that allows you to work toward leaving as soon as it’s feasible—start looking at other opportunities and networking, set a reasonable deadline, and see what other levers you may be able to pull in the meantime. If the situation is really dire and you have to get out, assess your finances to see if you can rely on savings for a while and/or talk to your parents, partner, or other loved ones to see if some interim financial support is possible while you look for a new job.

If you’re currently saddled with a toxic boss, you’re far from alone. Know your value, never waver from it and don’t allow an insecure and likely deeply unhappy person to make you feel less than capable. At the very least, navigating this situation will teach you some valuable lessons about how to be a leader and show you what you should not do when you are a manager. Because evil comes in many forms, I know I didn’t touch on every toxic trait and coping strategy. Share your horror stories and solutions in the comments!

Images: Shutterstock; Giphy (5); whenshappyhr (3) / Instagram

People Are Taking These Herbs For Relaxation & It’s Not What You Think

The wellness world is always evolving and throwing new sh*t at us to help our bodies and minds in wonderful, magical ways. As focus has shifted from the early ’90s era of extreme weight loss (remember the grapefruit diet, anyone? No? Wanna go on a Cabbage Soup fast? No? Ok then.) to today’s more holistic and health-conscious space, the trends have adapted to follow suit. In other words, our focus in the health space has transitioned from weight loss to wellness. Applause all around, please. I’m so glad we all finally realized there are more important things in life (such as functioning organs) than having thighs that don’t touch.

With this paradigm shift, wellness experts are now marketing new things based on concepts such as detoxification, hormone balancing, and immune boosting. Enter: adaptogens.

Adaptogens are the latest buzzword in the wellness realm, and I know they sound weirdly medical, like they should be a part of our DNA or cells or something, but they’re actually a non-toxic herb, so you don’t need to be scared. According to Times magazine, adaptogens are a special class of herbs that will help the body resist physical, chemical, and biological stressors. Results from this scientific study show that the herbs also interact with our hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), responsible for communication to our kidneys (ie: adrenal glands) about how to handle stress.

See, when we are stressed out, our body uses three stages to handle stress. The initial phase is the alarm phase. It’s self-explanatory: you’re f*cking shook. It’s the initial stage of stress, such as your first few reps of lifting weights. This is where the body releases its first dose of hormones. The second phase, the phase of resistance, is when you’re able to handle the stress. So this phase is kind of what gets you through the subsequent reps and sets of your workout. This phase is where the adaptogens work their magic. They essentially stretch out the resistance phase by acting like a hormone balancer. Because they play a role in the brain to adrenal gland communication, they are able to level out the amount of stress hormones that get released by your adrenal glands. The third and final phase of a stress response is the exhaustion phase. It has nothing to do with adaptogens, that’s just your body saying “chill, bitch.”  The example of weight lifting is obviously a physical stressor, but adaptogens have also been shown to help the body handle mental or emotional stress. So basically, adaptogens are supposed to level you tf out so you’re not a miserable, murderous bitch.

While new to the Western world, Ayurvedic healing and Chinese medicine have known about adaptogens for centuries. The trend has hit our side of the world in a big way, and now all these coffee shops are pushing mushroom coffee (I’m not so sure about this), and you can find the adaptogenic herb Ashwaganda in powder form in many health food stores. Another one you’ve most likely heard of before is ginseng. I’m kinda psychic, so I can say with like semi-certainty that it’s about to have a huge comeback now, but your favorite Chinese spot has probably been cooking with ginseng forever. For you overambitious betches that don’t believe in easing into things, try this Gwyneth Paltrow-approved adaptogenic smoothie recipe. I’m not sure where you can buy “moon dust,” but it sounds like something my drug dealer has mentioned before.

Despite all the cool info circulating about these herbs, keep in mind that scientific research on how adaptogens truly interact with our body is still very limited, and I recommend consulting with a doctor before trying new supplements, especially if you are taking prescription drugs.

What do you guys think? Would you try these herbs? Would you do the mushroom coffee? Sound off below!

Images: Chris Knight / Unsplash; Giphy