Are you unable to stop yourself from taking in a steady stream of bad news, continuously reading social media or clicking around the web? If so, you may be “doomscrolling”. Though this phenomenon isn’t new, the doomscrolling name was established during the Covid-19 pandemic. Not surprisingly, doomscrolling can have an affect your emotional wellbeing and overall health.
The Impact of Doomscrolling on Mental Health
Research has linked the consumption of negative news with greater fear, stress, anxiety and sadness. Too much time spent taking in media, whether it’s television news, via websites or on social media, can also lead to disconnection, loneliness and depression.
Another risk of doomscrolling is mental discord. When information from one source or media outlet contradicts the next one, your mind may struggle to reconcile the conflict – an unsettling feeling that helps escalates fear and anxiety.
On a biological level, continually activating the stress hormone, cortisol, exhausts both your brain and body. This chronic excess can lead to increasing negative thoughts, a pessimistic mindset, difficulty falling asleep or sleeping well and even the onset of panic attacks.
Tips to Help You Stop
Use the resources below to give yourself distance, help create healthier patterns and reduce the urge to scroll.
Set Limits and Unfollow Negativity
Staying informed is important, but first set and stick to boundaries. Remove apps from your phone or computer, so that you must go to the website and log in each time you want to read. Turn off notifications and pop-ups. Unfollow negative news sources or those that tend to make you anxious.
Set a timer, giving yourself no more than 20 minutes at a time, and cap the number of sites you visit at a time or in a day.
Rather than scrolling quickly, give yourself time to concentrate and focus. Use your attention span to read full articles, rather than lots of headlines or summaries.
Pay Attention to Your Stress Levels
As you read or listen, notice how your body reacts and your mind’s response. Paying conscious attention to increased anxiety, agitation or stress, can help motivate you to step away.
Be Honest with Yourself
Spend some time considering what is at the root of your scrolling. Do you need reassurance or guidance? A more lasting and healing intervention would be to connect with someone. Are you feeding your own fears? Asking for alternative perspectives, whether from different outlets or family and friends, can provide comfort and help shift your mindset.
When you assume that the worst will happen, you are “catastrophizing”. Although the worst-case scenario may indeed be possible, it is most likely not probable. Challenge yourself to identify a more realistic outcome or two and how you might handle that situation. Actively working to reduce or stop this type of thought pattern will help reduce your worries and ease feelings of anxiety.
Turn off the television, put down your phone or tablet and walk away from the computer. Some deep breaths will help to reconnect you with your body and give your mind a rest. Exercise, even just a few minutes of brisk walking, jumping jacks or planks, can increase your serotonin level, the feel-good neurotransmitter in your brain.