How to Stop Doomscrolling
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Do you get overwhelmed by the deluge of headlines, images, and information coming at you during the day? Claire gives you a tip on how to moderate your news intake without burying your head in the sand and pretending nothing is happening. Plus, she answers a question from a listener who wants guidance on how best to comfort and support a grieving child.
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Are you freaking out every time you look at the news? Does sometimes seeing just one headline, throw a wrench in your day and spin you into an anxious wreck? Hi, I’m Claire Bidwell Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on NEW DAY. Now on your feed three times a week. Look, the news is insane right now. I mean, it has been for several years. And let’s not forget that there’s another presidential election looming in the not-too-distant future. But seriously, between the war on Ukraine and the shit going on in the Supreme Court right now, there are still a million other things that have the ability to leave you feeling an overwhelming sense of existential dread with just one glance at the headlines. It’s rough out there. And I get that it’s hard to avoid, nor should we avoid what’s going on in the world. But I do think we need to be smarter about how and when we are consuming the catastrophe that is current events. Look, we’ve all heard that anxiety is on the uptick in our culture. And I believe it’s largely due to how much information we’re downloading into our brains at any given time due to technology. The thing is, we’re going about this pretty thoughtlessly glancing at our phones while we wait in line for a latte. Or while we’re idling in the school pickup line. So much of the time, we aren’t being careful about when we choose to take on all this information. I mean, just take a minute and reflect on how many times in the last few years, you’ve popped up in the news on your phone, only to be bombarded with something horrific, like a school shooting or a violent hate crime. How did that go for you? Did it completely throw you off kilter? Did it ruin a good vibe you had going or kill some creative juices are completely SAP you have energy to finish some work? Again, I’m not saying don’t keep up with the news. I believe we need to know what’s going on in the world. But I also know that the news along with anxiety can be addictive and consuming. And there’s smarter ways to go about staying informed. Everything I’ve learned about anxiety has taught me that we stay in anxious cycles, we keep worrying about things because worry gives us a sense of control. It makes us feel like we’re prepared. But most of the time, this kind of worry and obsession with things like the news just keeps us in a heightened state of alert. Here are a few suggestions. And these are just things you can try out and see how they feel. See if they make a difference. Try to limiting your news intake. And sometimes this includes social media, to just once or twice a day during a time when you know you’re ready to emotionally and intellectually take on whatever you might read about. If this makes you anxious like you might not know if something big happens, then ask a trusted friend or partner to inform you if there’s something urgent you need to be aware of. That way you can go about your day a little more relaxed and focused on what’s actually in front of you. Knowing that someone will reach out if there’s something you need to know. And then when you’re ready to take on the news, you’ll have set aside a time that’s right for it. Also try filling some of that new empty space with something positive. Have some books on hand or podcasts or listen to something that will satisfy your brain with information, but not the kind that sends you spinning when you least expect it.
Let’s answer a question from you. Victoria in Seattle asks, how do you comfort a child losing a parent at a very young age? This is such a good question Victoria. A really important one. Thank you. It’s a hard one too, though. I think in general, so many people worry about how to talk to kids about grief. And I think that there’s a lot to think about here that we’re not realizing all the time. One of the things is that when we look at kids who are grieving, we expect their grief to look like hours. But children don’t grieve the same way that adults do. Children have a different developmental process that allows them to understand the grief and loss in increments as they age. So you’ll see a child at say age eight who lost a parent kind of grieve a new every couple of years as they hit new developmental milestones. So at age eight, while they don’t look the way that you think they should, in their grief, maybe crying or angry or talking about it a lot. You may see that happen, you know, a year later, two years later, five years later. So I think one of the big first steps here is to kind of take your expectations of what grief should look like off the child. Just continuing to show up, provide space for them, meet them where they’re at, be curious about how they’re feeling. Don’t push them too hard to feel any one thing, but just be really open to receiving all the different ways they do want to talk about it or do want to express their grief. A lot of kids will be very creative in their grief. You may see kids expressing anxiety in their grief or irritability and frustration. But again, opening that door and providing that kind of space for them to be able to talk about it if and when they’re ready is really important. I also think that kids really need kind of just time and space and a sense of security as they’re grieving. that anxiety for them comes from this idea that what they thought life was like has now changed, and they’re not sure what to expect anymore. So everything you can do to kind of create routine and stability is really helpful and important. The other thing I love to tell parents is don’t be afraid to not know the answers to their questions about grief. I think kids will ask like really big questions, and parents are scared that they have to have some kind of perfect answer like where is my dad now?
What happens to the body? What happens when someone is buried? What happens when someone is cremated? You don’t have to know all the answers to that, you can say I don’t know, you can open up that door for conversation, you can turn it around. And one of my therapist tricks is, whenever I’m unsure of how to answer a client’s question, I’ll just turn it around on them. What do you think happens? Often that just kind of gives the kid their own chance to explore the idea on their own. But there are also amazing books out there that can help you walk through some heavy conversations. Maria Shriver has a great book called What’s Heaven, and she really walks through burial and cremation and funerals. And I found that one really helpful I read it to my own kids. My kids have heard a ton of, they’ve read a ton of kids’ books about grief, I ordered a bunch one time and they all came in this big box from Amazon. And they were all excited about some new kids’ books. And then every single one of them was about grief. My kids were like, Mom, what is going on. But I’m really impressed with how many different ways that you can kind of explore the topics of grief through children’s books with them. They’re great conversation openers, they provide some of the information you might be scared to talk about. There’s another one that I love called, it just came out. It’s called when someone dies a children’s how to guide on grief and loss by Andrea Dorn. And the other thing I’d recommend for kids who are grieving, especially kids who’ve lost a parent are grief camps. This is where kids will go to a camp, a summer camp. And it’s like a totally regular summer camp. They do all the regular summer camp stuff, except all the kids there have been through a loss. And like every evening, they’ll gather and maybe share a little bit about that. And it’s a really cool experience for kids to be around other kids who know what it’s like to be going through loss and to be grieving. And then the very last thing I’ll say is just you know; I think that our culture really needs to keep changing and shifting and growing around how we talk to kids about grief and death. Often we shield them from it. And that’s not actually the answer, we need to give them vocabulary, we need to give them permission to grieve to talk about it, to understand grief and loss. It’s something we’re all going to go through in our lifetimes. And helping kids start to talk about it is going to prepare them down the road when they go through even more loss because inevitably we all do.
And finally victory. The last thing I just want to say is a reminder for you to care for yourself, if you are the one who is helping this grieving child. When a kid goes through a loss. One parent is grieving and also helping the kid through grief. And so you have to remember to take care of yourself and get support, just so that you can have the bandwidth to support them and take care of them. There’s a great episode that I had recently with Michael Kruse, Cain who lost an infant son and he talks about how he helped his other children and his spouse move through the grief around their sibling and, and son. So I think that that would be a great one to listen to as well. But thank you so much for this question, Victoria. It’s such an important one. And I love trying to help people understand a little bit more about how to talk to kids about grief. If you have a question for me, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you. Come right back here on Friday for my conversation with Rebecca Sofer, all about modern loss and changing the conversation about grief. And make sure you subscribe to new dates so that you never miss an episode.
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.