We've all been there: The kids are finally asleep, we settle into the couch to wind down for the evening, pick up our phone for a "quick check" of the news and social media… and somehow lose an hour or more of our precious free time deep in a rabbit hole of all the terrible things happening in the world, filled with a sense of dread. Exhausted, we climb into bed unable to quiet our anxious minds, sleep poorly and drag ourselves through the next day.
There's a term for this modern phenomenon: doomscrolling—the compulsive continuous consumption of news that activates feelings of fear, anxiety and helplessness.
Mamas, I know things are hard and scary right now. The world as we have previously known it is changing by the day. In the span of just a few months, we have suddenly found ourselves weathering a global pandemic, an economic crisis and a national reckoning with race—and now we're grappling with uncertainty about what childcare and school will mean this fall. Many families are in impossible predicaments with no perfect solutions.
While so much of what is transpiring is beyond our control, we each have the power to optimize our mental health by making choices that shore up our capacity for resilience during these trying times. In the age of ever-present technology, that means we have the ability to assess the impact of the information we consume and engage with, and to make intentional choices about our digital diet.
There's a fine line between staying informed and doomscrolling, and many of us are crossing it daily. When we feed our brain binge-level amounts of bad news, we are more susceptible to catastrophizing, depression, anxiety, insomnia and irritability.
Mothers are especially vulnerable to the effects of doomscrolling because of the added component of maternal worry, which when coupled with prolonged social isolation and increased caregiving demands can create additional risks for mental and emotional health. Doomscrolling steals our capacity for joy, something that is worthy of protecting in these trying times.
Here are eight tips to counter the negative impacts of doomscrolling and build resilience:
1. Establish boundaries around your digital diet.
Resist the urge to check news and social media throughout the day. If this is difficult to do, place your phone out of sight and in a drawer. Set parameters around how often you check the news and social media and for how long, and stick to them.
2. Listen to your body.
When you are engaging with news and social media, notice when anxiety arises in your body—like shallower breathing, headaches, tight muscles or other physical signals of stress or tension—and take that as a cue to unplug. When you notice that you are activated, reconnect to your breath and engage in some form of gentle movement to bring yourself back into the awareness of the present moment.
3. Don't go it alone.
Explore the relationship between your social media habits and feelings of isolation. Most of us are engaging with our devices more these days as a result of prolonged social isolation. Find ways to engage in active social connection rather than the passive social connection of social media. Pop your littlest ones in the stroller and go for a walk-and-talk with a friend, either over the phone or socially distanced. Schedule your child's screen time around coordinated phone dates with friends. Text a friend and invite them to be an accountability buddy in your efforts to curb doomscrolling.
4. Control your inputs.
Mute or unfollow accounts that consistently activate feelings of overwhelm and dread.
5. Get some rest.
Practice good sleep hygiene and disconnect from screens at least an hour before going to bed.
6. Engage in activities that strengthen the nervous system & build resilience.
Spend as much time as possible in nature. When you have caregiving breaks, practice yoga and meditation, listen to music or a podcast while coloring or working on a puzzle. Prioritize activity that soothes your body and your mind.
7. Find small ways to cultivate joy & beauty in your family rhythm.
Gather blooms from a neighborhood walk and place bouquets around the house, light candles for dinner and bathtime. Dance together and create art. Inhale the smell of your children's heads deeply and often.
8. End every day by making a gratitude list.
This simple exercise can have a profound impact on your perspective and emotional health. Even when so much of what we are all experiencing is overwhelming, there are almost always a few things we can find to focus our appreciation on.
We may not know what the future holds, but as mothers we are wired for resilience. The ability to navigate challenging seasons with strength is in our job description. We are weathering the storms of these turbulent times together as we do the important work of raising the next generation. We can do this. Now go put your phone down.