Have you found yourself endlessly scrolling through the news? Do you find it hard to stop yourself from reading what feels like doom-and-gloom news articles? This is what some people coin doomscrolling. It isn’t a new phenomenon but the COVID-19 outbreak certainly isn’t making it any better.
Many of my clients are talking about this new habit but it doesn’t stop there. My friends and family members are also guilty of it and concerned about it. Because as humans we are built to look for threats in our environment, it can sometimes feel like scouring the news for bad news is necessary. The problem? It can actually lead to a significant increase in anxiety.
Once you identify news stories that raise your anxiety, you start to think that you need to look for more incase you’re missing something. And as your anxiety goes up, you search the news for more info. In those moments, your anxiety settles a little because you are engaging in a behavior that your brain thinks it needs. When you stop reading the news, what happens? Your anxiety comes back full force and your brain says “hmmm, last time this happened, reading the news helped me feel better momentarily. Let’s try it again.” And you wind up in a vicious cycle of anxiety.
So, what can you do? Thankfully, there are a couple of effective strategies for managing doomscrolling:
- Set aside designated news-reading time. I often advise my clients to set aside ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening to catch up on the news of the day. The trick is limiting it to just ten minutes – that’s where timers can be really helpful. It can also be helpful to have another activity lined up right after so you are forced to turn away from the news.
- Turn off phone alerts. How many times have you been happily reading, watching tv, or chatting with a friend when you’re interrupted by ping on your phone from CNN or the NYTimes letting you know about some sort of late-breaking news? These push notifications can be helpful but they can also be harmful when you’re someone who gets sucked into the negative news cycle. Turn these notifications off.
- Use mindfulness and/or relaxation strategies to help manage the anxiety. I always remind my clients to use their skills including diaphragmatic breathing, Leaves on a Stream, and Body Scan to help them reduce anxiety and be more present in the moment
- Enlist others. If you live with a partner or roommates, see if you can hold each other accountable and remind each other to limit your news consumption. Help each other by engaging in fun activities together instead.
- Seek help. If you find that you can’t stop yourself from reading the news and you’re having trouble managing the anxiety, seek out a therapist to help you. Nobody has to live with that anxiety and a therapist can help you learn new strategies to reduce your anxiety and be more present in your life.
Have you been finding yourself doomscrolling more lately? Have you found any strategies that help you?
If you are interested in learning more about ways CBT or ACT can help you manage your anxiety, please reach out!