My most recent post, the last of three blogs written in an attempt to add humor to lives quarantined for two months, appeared on May 12. By mid-May, I’d stopped laughing. It’s mid-July now, and little has changed beyond more coronavirus cases and a suspicion that we might be semi-quarantined a year from now.
I have spent my time well and not-so-well. In the “well” category, I’ve walked most every day, created some interesting meals, kept in Zoom contact with a few friends and my long-time writers’ critique group, and taken four Zoom-delivered classes. I’ve finished the first draft of my novel. In the current phase, I read, add, delete, read again, regret having deleted something, and rewrite or move on.
The “not-s0-well” category has been more troubling, that is, until I read an article by Brian X. Chen, originally published in the New York Times, titled, “How to snap out of your ‘doomscrolling’ habit.” Doomscrolling, now considered “internet lingo,” describes “the experience of sinking into emotional quicksand while bingeing on doom-and-gloom news.” Brian has my number.
And doom-and-gloom news is as prolific as the rabbits reproducing in my neighborhood. An icon on my computer dock, with the dangerous name, News, invites me to catch up on the latest via Politico, PBS, HuffPost, CNN, The Hill, and more. Reading these for breakfast, lunch, and dinner determines my mood for different segments of the day.
I’m thankful that I am not alone and that the writer turned to medical experts to help those of us addicted to “digital candy.” Treat it like a food diet, one doctor says, and don’t take that second helping. Or decide you don’t want to live your life as a hamster. This could help with not only the news diet, but the diet diet, because hamsters eat seeds, fruits and only the occasional burrowing insects. The experts also confirmed what I already knew: scrolling can increase anxiety, anger and depression. I have anxiety without scrolling and I don’t need to make the situation worse.
The experts recommended meditating, making a schedule, connecting with people we care about. I’ll add “no midday chocolate bars” to this list. I appreciated the advice of Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Change: Mindfulness to Heal Ourselves and the World: think about people who have helped you in the past and express positive wishes toward them. (If not in person, then silently.)
The former surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, recommended spending time each day to make a connection to a friend. This reminds me of phone calls I received a week ago from two friends I haven’t seen in years. Not emails, not texts, but phone calls. I can’t remember the last time my phone rang and it wasn’t an IRS agent threatening to send the sheriff to arrest us or someone assuring me my Microsoft product was seriously flawed and I needed to share my credit card number for it to be repaired. Neither of the legitimate calls I received began as attempts to make connections. One woman asked if I had messaged her asking for the number of her bank account, and the other inquired about the death of a mutual friend. Both calls lasted well beyond my answers and left me smiling. (And please let me know if you receive a message from me asking about your bank account.)
Before I started writing this, I checked News and two other news websites. It’s going to be tough to stop feeding out of the troughs of new virus case numbers, presidential idiocies, feelings of shame about my country’s failures to corral the spread, and predictions of stay-at-home measures extending well into the future for the over-sixty crowd. But I am determined — reminds me of January 2 and my weight-loss resolutions.
Dr. Murthy has inspired me to go through my computer address book and start contacting people I haven’t spoken to since last year. And from the writer and the resource people he interviewed, I’ve decided to spend more time dreaming up blog posts than agonizing over which countries with sane leaders might accept me for the next few years.