Advice from Claire: How to Curb Your Doomscrolling Habit
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Are you guilty of doomscrolling? Claire gives you some tips on how to cut down on this compulsive habit. Plus, she answers a question from a listener whose husband refuses to get help for his anxiety.
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- Good News Movement on Instagram
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Claire Bidwell-Smith 00:00
Are you guilty of doom scrolling? Do you find yourself reading endlessly through horrific news stories? Clicking from one story to the next, taking in all the gory details, knowing this isn’t good for you, but doing it anyway. I’m Claire Bidwell Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on NEW DAY. Doomscrolling, that compulsive habit of scrolling endlessly through websites and news stories, reading about scary and awful things that are going on in the world. It’s a real thing. And so many of us are guilty of it. But why do we do it? So many of us spend a portion of 2020 doomscrolling that the Oxford English Dictionary named it a word of the year and even added it to the dictionary. That actual definition reads, the practice of obsessively checking online news for updates, especially on social media feeds with the expectation that the news will be bad, such that the feeling of dread from this negative expectation feels a compulsion to continue looking for updates and a self-perpetuating cycle. There’s actually nothing new about this human behavior. Our culture has long had a can’t look away from the car crash mentality. The psychology behind it explains the compulsion by describing that when we read and witness these stories, from the comfort of our own homes, or wherever we are, when we’re reading this stuff, it has a calming effect. It can make us feel like, okay, things are pretty horrible out there. But I’m comfortable and safe right now. I’ll add to that by saying that in all the research I’ve done around anxiety and catastrophic thinking, we do often get caught in cycles of playing out worst case scenarios, because it feels like we’re doing something, worrying about things makes us feel like we’re preparing for them. And maybe we’re going to be prepared when it happens to us. So in that sense, Doomscrolling is simply the compulsive need to try and get answers when we’re scared. We assess the information as a way of determining the threat level, we’re biologically driven to do this on some level. The pandemic really exacerbated this doom scrolling habit for us, because there was an actual threat. And in the beginning, there wasn’t a lot of information. So the compulsion to be informed if it’s at an all-time high. Unfortunately, this puts a lot of us into a bad habit of doom scrolling, even when we don’t need to. And to make it worse news outlets have caught on to this compulsion. And they know that the scarier they have minds, the more likely we are to click. The most fucked up part is that this behavior of dwelling in a kind of endless feed of scary news can result in what looks a lot like Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Basically a Twitter feed of worries in your head. And since generalized anxiety disorder is associated with problems like muscle tensions, fatigue and depression, we’re seeing similar effects on habitual Doomscrollers.
Claire Bidwell-Smith 02:43
So what do we do? Well, like any bad habit, we have to quit. And look, I know it can sound scary to stop reading the news. Again, that fear is coming from wanting to feel informed and prepared in case of a threat. But know that this habit is likely causing you a lot of anxiety and probably eating up a lot of time. So start by keeping a log of how often you find yourself doing scrolling. How much time did you spend doing it? How did you feel after were there any positive results, really taking a look at your habit and help you recognize the severity of it, and how toxic it can be. Try setting limits for yourself. Give yourself 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night to do your scrolling. And if it makes you nervous to take such big breaks from it. Assign a friend or family member to inform you if something happens that you need to know about. Come up with some alternatives to your doom scrolling. Every time you catch yourself doing it or feel the urge to take a quick walk outside or work on a creative project or read a book. Replace that time you’ve been spending with healthy behaviors. Even just replace the Doom scrolling with reading about positive things. I love the Instagram feed good news movement that posts uplifting and heartwarming stories only and feels good to read. Before I leave you, I just want you to consider for one moment how much time you spend thinking about negative scenarios reading scary shit, and worrying about bad things. How often do you let yourself dwell in positive fantasies, stories and hopeful ideas? It’s time to flip the switch.
Claire Bidwell-Smith 04:16
Today’s listener question comes from a concerned wife. Is there something in your marriage or relationship you want to ask me about that can be big or small. You can either email me at email@example.com. Or fill out my online forum at bit.ly/newdayask. The link is in the show notes. Elizabeth in South Carolina wrote in to ask is there any way to convince someone to seek help for mental health issues? My husband’s anxiety can make life very difficult on me and our kids. And I think medication would do wonders but he refuses. He had a really negative experience in the past with ADHD medication. It brought out a quick temper in him I had never seen prior and haven’t seen since he stopped taking it. And I know he’s afraid something similar will happen here. I have to I had to bring up situational anxiety medication as opposed to taking something every day. But he’s not even open to that. Hi, Elizabeth, thank you for writing. This is a hard situation. And I completely understand that you’re feeling frustrated and looking for answers. First, you’re so not alone in this, there are so many people who are in relationships with loved ones who refuse to get help. And I know it can just feel really defeating and also maddening. But second, you’re in luck, because I think that there’s a lot of stuff out there that can help with anxiety. Aside from medication, I’m sorry, he had a bad experience, though, and I can understand why he’s not excited to try it again. Here’s what I would do, I would get as informed as possible about anxiety and the various treatments for it. There’s cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR, meditation, mindfulness, there are loads and loads of great books and workbooks about how to work on anxiety. So get informed for yourself before you talk to him, skim some books, read about various treatments and alternatives to medication, come up with some practical offerings and solutions or even like a local therapist, that sounds good. And then sit down with him. Do it during a time when you guys are not stressed. And you’re not in conflict over this so that you can be really calm and that you’re coming from a nonreactive state. And then clearly describe and explain how his anxiety is affecting your family. Tell him how it impacts your marriage, how you see it affecting your kids. Tell him how you see it affecting him in his own life. Maybe you make some notes before you do this, or even write it all out in a letter that you read. And do all of this with compassion. Try not to minimize his experience. But definitely spell out for him that this is impacting your family and your life together. And then next, present him with your findings, therapists books podcast to listen to. And ask him if he can commit to trying something. Ask him to commit to just three sessions with a therapist or to read one book, or even just to go to couples therapy with you and talk about how this is affecting your marriage. And look, if he’s a hard no on all of it, then I suggest you get some really good therapy for yourself. That can be really hard to live with someone who has anxiety, I really get it. You need to take care of yourself and figuring out how you’re going to continue living with it if he doesn’t want to get help. But I’m optimistic that you can find some solutions that might be more appealing to him than medication. And that if you spell things out to him plainly and with compassion, he’ll come around to getting some help. Good luck, Elizabeth. I will be thinking about you.
Claire Bidwell-Smith 07:30
Thanks for listening to NEW DAY. And make sure you come back on Wednesday because I’m going to dive into why we stalk people we don’t like on social media and give you some tips to stop doing it. Or at least cut down on how frequently you do it. So hit that subscribe button and see you back here on Wednesday.
Claire Bidwell-Smith 07:49
NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show was produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. New Day is produced in partnership with the well-being trust the Jed foundation and Education Development Center. Thanks for listening.