I like to think that I’m pretty good at taking care of my mental health. I work out regularly, eat healthy (most of the time), get fresh air, have hobbies that I enjoy, and so on. But like so many others, 2020 was a year I never could have expected, and with that came some very big mental health struggles I had never dealt with before. The biggest one? The endless scrolling on social media.
I am incredibly lucky to be working from home amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. When we shifted to working remotely in March 2020, all of us thought it would be a temporary, two-week thing. Almost a year later, and I’m very grateful to still have a job and that flexibility to continue working from home to stay safe. But moving a few feet from my bedroom to my desk every day also has its downsides. The work-life balance can easily tilt way too heavily toward work, especially since you don’t have to commute to and from the office, so why not stay online for a little while longer and get a few more things done, right?
When I wasn’t working, I was scrolling through social media and obsessively consuming troubling news, triggering tweets, political arguments on Facebook, and just overall trash.
That, paired with the world having to live through a usually horrific historic moment every few weeks, made it seem like I could never just turn “off.” I was constantly staring at a screen from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. When I wasn’t working, I was scrolling through social media and obsessively consuming troubling news, triggering tweets, political arguments on Facebook, and just overall trash. While watching a movie or TV show, I would constantly find myself reaching for my phone every few minutes to the point where I had to rewind to the same spot multiple times because I kept missing what was going on. When I saw something upsetting on social media, I’d put my phone down, only to unlock it again two minutes later. The endless events of 2020 continued to pile onto my chest like heavy bricks and made it harder and harder to breathe, sleep, and function as time went on. I felt sad and angry all the time without any relief.
It wasn’t until about early July 2020 that I had had enough. After purging my social media and blocking, muting, and deleting people (including some family members) who didn’t bring joy into my life, I also decided to make a conscious effort to leave my phone in another room every night. In addition to trying to sign off work on time in order to protect my free time, I also made more of an effort to actually enjoy that free time while it was happening. Instead of constantly reaching for my phone to check work emails or social media, I’d put it in my bedroom and leave it there until I went to sleep. Having it in a different room removed it entirely from my mind. I was usually too comfortable on the couch to go and get it, and I was able to really take in what I was watching, reading, or doing. I had no distractions and told myself that if anything urgent really was happening (at work or otherwise), my phone would ring. Nothing is as important as my own mental health.
The weird thing is as soon as I started doing this, I instantly felt a million times better. It was such a simple thing that provided so much relief. Instead of being consumed by terrible news and things and people on social media who I didn’t even care about, I was filling my life with things I enjoyed (even during lockdown!). I was being protective of my time outside of work. Now, I keep myself informed on the news enough to know what’s going on, but I try not to seek out more articles that will start an endless rabbit-hole search. I only follow accounts on social media that genuinely make me happy, and I only check social media a few times a day (and when I do, I usually scroll through the first few photos before putting my phone down). I had to learn how to separate the actual news from all the noise that comes with it.
If you’re constantly feeling stressed, I can’t recommend putting your phone in another room after work enough. Doing this simple thing made me realize that so much of what I was consuming was weighing heavily on me long after I saw it, and there was no reason for it. Not looking at my phone as much means I now never even see family arguments on Facebook or upsetting tweets. I’m sure it’s all still happening, but I’m too busy looking after myself to care.