For The Sake Of My Anxiety, I'm Done With The News During Social Isolation

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
For the Sake of My Anxiety, I'm Done With the News During Social Isolation
Annie Spratt/Unsplash

I made a huge mistake. As soon as I woke up, I checked Twitter, scanning the trending topics. Of course, it was ninety-five percent COVID19 coverage, and I clicked on an article with a tempting and terrifying headline. That’s when my anxiety began to spiral out of control. The day had just started, and I was already on edge.

After doing this a few more times, I made a decision. I was no longer going to read the news, watch any of Trump’s ridiculous press conferences, or click on ever-evolving statistic charts showing me how many confirmed cases of coronavirus had been discovered. None of these helped me. In fact, the virus news only guaranteed that I would have an absolutely terrible, anxious day.

I’m in the midst of helping my four kids with distance-learning, working from home, and trying to maintain some sort of order in my home. My husband’s job mandated that he work from home, so he’s set up his office in our closet—the farthest space away from the chaos. We’ve been in social isolation for a full month (and counting), with a long, daily to-do list that includes school, chores, music practice, and work. I have a lot, and I mean a lot, on my plate.

I’ve lived with anxiety since I was a young child, but I wasn’t officially diagnosed until I was in my thirties. Once I could finally name the problem, realizing it was truly a real problem and not just—pun intended—all in my head, I could get the help I needed. This includes talk therapy, intentional exercise, journaling, yoga, and anxiety medication. These have been tremendous helps.

But then the COVID-19 global pandemic hit, and like everyone else, my world was turned inside out and upside down. Not only am I trying to navigate this new normal, but I’m doing it with four children and my spouse who depend on me. My anxiety has surprisingly been in decent control over the past month, except when I do one thing: I pause and read the news.

I realized that I had a choice to make. I do have some power in this otherwise uncontrollable situation. Would I continue to ignite my anxiety by getting caught up on the daily news, which we all know is depressing and infuriating? Or, would I choose to tune out the noise and focus on my priorities, including keeping my family healthy and safe?

After a reassuring, affirming chat with my therapist via telemedicine, I doubled down on my efforts to avoid the news. We don’t have the television or radio on during the day, and when we do watch or listen to something, it’s intentionally a program without any mention of the pandemic. I’m not visiting my go-to news sites, because I know I’ll be bombarded with all-things-coronavirus that will only spark some serious worry that I can’t shake.

We aren’t ignorant. We are absolutely doing what we’re supposed to, such as (most importantly) staying in isolation. We’re doing the best we can to help our kids e-learn. When we do need essential items like groceries and prescriptions, we do order drive-up or utilize a delivery service. We’re washing our hands. Basically, anything we can control, we’re doing so as directed by the CDC and our state government, including shelter-in-place. We’re checking in with neighbors, family, and friends via technology. As a family of faith, we’re praying for those on the front lines. Our home has become a school, company, and church.

What we can’t control? Everything, and everyone, else. For example, Trump is going to be Trump. He’s shown us who he is long ago, and he’s certainly not going to change. Watching him parade around makes me want to throw my wine glass at the television screen. No, thanks. I’m not going to spend my evenings watching him when I can be watching Little Fires Everywhere. (Oh the irony of that title!)

What I know from years of personal medical trauma is that self-care is absolutely essential to stable mental health, and right now this couldn’t be more true. One way I care for myself is by turning off anything that is going to make my day not only unproductive, but downright miserable. I can spend my time scrolling through my feed, feeling worse and worse with each passing minute, or I can do a yoga video with my tweens, play another round of Sorry! with my son, or read a book to my preschooler. The choice is mine.

I’m still reading and listening, it’s just not to the noise that puts a permanent black cloud over my day. I’m catching up on Scary Mommy articles, and I’m liking my friends’ social media posts featuring all the creative things they’re doing with their kids. I’m watching John Krasinski’s Some Good News, Dolly Parton reading books to kids, and Trey Kennedy’s hilarious videos on YouTube with my family. I’m finally listening to The Office Ladies podcast episodes while cooking dinner. I’m reading my daughter’s copy of Brown Girl Dreaming, the book she couldn’t quit gushing about. What I’m not doing? Pouring fear upon my anxiety.

Social isolation is not a vacation, that’s for sure. However, I can choose to be completely miserable or make the most of it. I can feed the anxiety beast, or I can tame it. The choice is mine, and I choose to take it one day at a time, minus the news.

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