Doomscrolling, recession and mental health

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It was a workday afternoon, I was scrolling through Linkedin. I saw someone liked a post from his/her connection. I read through and found out that Linkedin retrenched a good number of employees all over the world including Singapore. On the surface, I though they would be thriving at this time with many people using the platform to learn, engage their professional networks and to look for jobs. I didn’t realize they’d also be hit by the effects of the pandemic. I suddenly felt uneasy. 

According to an article recently posted on NPR.com, the term “Doomscrolling” just emerged as a slang that refers to the endless consumption of doom and gloom news. It also said that Doomscrolling traps us in a vicious cycle of negativity that fuels our anxiety. We’ve all done it, opened news and social media apps countless times a day or late at night, subconsciously searching for negative news, opinions and predictions to affirm what’s already on top of our minds. That midday linkedin status message is a prime example of this. Besides that, I’ve unfortunately developed some unhealthy habits that feed on this doom, like regularly looking at business news to see which large MNC has retrenched staff (seems like it’s happening on a daily basis now), scrolling on twitter to see who got “cancelled” on that day, etc. 

In the last few months, several countries including Singapore have officially entered recession. This is technically not “my” first recession. I graduated from college right after the GFC aftermath. But my first job was in the Education sector, so I was unaware of the effects of that recession. As a millennial, I think the 2020 recession along with the pandemic has become the defining crisis of our generation. Couple that with the non-stop bombardment of negative news and views, is a recipe for a plethora of mental health issues. 

Doomscrolling did take a little toll on my mental health. Thankfully, I found that doing the following helped to alleviate some of my anxieties about the current situation (if you’re in a privileged stance like I am).

Schedule the scrolling – It’s very challenging to just throw away the phone / computer and never look at a single news article or video. If it really can’t be helped, it would be better to consciously give yourself only certain times per day to read news and current events. Try to avoid scrolling the whole day so the bad news doesn’t stick to your mind and disrupt whatever it is you’re supposed to do. 

Control what’s controllable – When everything seems to be falling apart, what’s one thing we can control? Our actions. At this time, our actions should ideally be spent towards being more kind to ourselves and to others, whether keeping ourselves productive, creating or revisiting old hobbies, or putting efforts towards helping others. These are better ways to expend the energy we have rather than to exhaust our minds repeatedly putting ourselves into pity or anxiety parties. 

Prepare yourself – One thing you can do to help secure yourself is to prepare for what might happen to us if the recession persists for a long time. It could mean spending less on non-essentials to add more to your savings, updating your resume and keeping a lookout on what’s on the job market, starting a side hustle if you have the time, etc. All situations are very fluid right now. Not trying to scare anyone, but the reality is that what we may be enjoying now, we wont be doing so in a few months time, when the effects of the economic fallout creep in. 

There was a popular slang in my home country Philippines a few years ago, “Walang Forever”. It literally translates to Nothing is Forever. It was meant to be a pessimistic idea about romantic love, but I think it’s certainly applicable in life in general. For me, It’s a blessing that nothing is forever because it means whatever we are facing now will not last for a lifetime. We’ve seen it in our history. There’ll be a turning point. Maybe it’s not immediate, but will get to the end of the tunnel slowly but surely. Right now, what we can only do is to help ourselves and our mental health in order to ride this crisis out. 

Link to Doomscrolling article: https://www.npr.org/2020/07/19/892728595/your-doomscrolling-breeds-anxiety-here-s-how-to-stop-the-cycle

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