I have gotten into a bad habit lately and I am paying the price. The picture to the left depicts how I feel at the moment of writing this.
It seems that the habits of old that I broke free of have crept back into my life again recently. I have spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME on social media and also watching the news on TV. In the past weeks I have been allocating some of my time and brain space to keeping track of everything from the COVID infection rate, the battles over vaccines, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, laws ramrodded through Congress, an unprecedented number of Federal Judges approved for positions from which they can never be removed, voter ID laws coming to the forefront again, vaccine passports, border issues, and the list goes on and on. It is too much for anyone to process, or it is at the very least too much for me to process.
This cycle has repeated itself in my life more than a handful of times. For the most part I do a good job of staying in my lane so to speak; I limit my exposure to the onslaught of information that the world easily provides if I allow it. While I do not wish to turn a blind eye to the events going on at home and abroad, I do know that I need to not take on the emotional baggage of all the world’s suffering either. It is very easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of negativity and political divide. The can be a huge price to pay for most of the things I witness through the magic of my phone and the internet. That price: my own sanity.
I had three nights in a row where I strayed from my routine and I was staring at my phone right up until I was dozing off. I fell asleep without too much trouble, but I woke up in the middle of the night from weird dreams and I struggled to get back to sleep. I remember waking and thinking about things like being in Afghanistan trying to escape or lying in a hospital bed dying of COVID. These are not things I normally dream about or spend any time dwelling on, but because they were so front and center in my mind right before sleep, I allowed these things to permeate my thoughts to the point of saturation. I felt terrible the morning after such poor nights sleep. I felt like I have had a weight on my chest all day.
That, my friends, is what I refer to as MIA –> Media Induced Anxiety. Most of the things that happen in the world are far outside my control or can I help in the aftermath. But when you literally have people cheering at the announcement that Joe Rogan has COVID and then disappointed that he isn’t more sick to prove their side of the vaccine argument is just disgusting. Just because another human being disagrees with your stance on a topic does not mean they deserve to suffer, and it sure as Hell doesn’t mean that you should cheer for them to do so. Let’s get back to the basics here people….human kindness seems to be a fading trend. It can’t be, otherwise we are in serious trouble as a society.
In the grand scheme of things, we literally could be watching the fall of the U.S. as the world has known if for the past nearly one hundred years. From a historical perspective, most empires peak and then begin to decline after 250 year. We are past that mark, especially factoring in the pace at which the world moves these days. Maybe that sounds overly dramatic, but it seems to me that the stage is set for the division that is currently in place to continue. Whether it be over COVID and vaccines or political choices, the degradation of our society seems to be increasing. As I say all the time and even more lately, I am so glad I do not have children. I can’t imagine what my anxiety levels would be like having one or more kids growing up in the world today. The level of access and exposure to so many things that they will see long before they are ready for it frightens me to no end. The school systems (at least here in AZ) are suffering from teacher flight to other states, overcrowding of classrooms, hybrid learning and mask mandates and gang activity and drugs and the list goes on and on. It is not twice as bad as when I was a kid, it is exponentially worse.
As an adult I do my best to control the things in my life which I can control; my diet, my exercise levels, sunlight exposure, my social media intake, etc. These things have a direct impact on my mental well-being and therefore I am directly responsible for maintaining healthy levels of each. It is akin to drinking alcohol (which I do none of) as in moderation of the “bad stuff” is a necessary approach. You don’t have to avoid all alcohol like I do (I personally just don’t like it) but having a drink or two on occasion is fine. Its when you use alcohol or other vices to mask anxiety or other issues that it becomes a problem. This type of coping mechanism starts out seemingly innocuously at first, but if you do not keep a close eye on it pretty soon you are drinking a fifth of vodka every day just to get by. Don’t laugh, I have had several people I know fight this battle and recover, and all of them said the same thing: “it snuck up on me“.
The good news is that I become sensitive to the warning signs and know how to take corrective action. It shouldn’t have taken more than one sleepless night to get me to put my phone down sooner and to limit my intake of social media. I don’t like for anything to have a hold on me that I can’t break, and a backward slide into the grip of social media that makes me feel the “need” to consume more of it. It is a plain and simple addition. The social media apps and algorithms are designed to keep you on them as long as possible for one reason: it drives ad revenue. Addiction by design is the reason that each of the major social media apps are valued at over a billion dollars each…people start and they can’t stop. As bad as a porn addiction can be, at least there is a “conclusion” to the activity and then you do not need it for a while. With social media, it can literally be an all day, non-stop thing that occupies your brain space. PS…kill all of the notifications from social media on your phone, life will be so much better.
It is up to each one of us individually to monitor and maintain our own health. This is an all-encompassing duty, including physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and that is a tall task. It takes work, but in many ways you have no choice if you want to live a healthy life. No one else can tell you when you need a break from your phone or need to get more sunlight exposure. Yes, your Doctor may be able to assist once you have reached a low point in your physical health, but A. you only see them when you are sick and B. their advice will be very generalized, based on what is the “typical dosage” for the average person. By taking responsibility for yourself, you avoid needing the Dr. visit to help solve your problems in most cases and you own the responsibility for your well being. For me, I ebb and flow on all of it, finding and maintaining a balance is difficult and I am constantly gaining ground here and losing it there.
The main point is this: Be your own advocate.
You HAVE TO look out for yourself, pull back when needed or push harder when appropriate. Once you have some practice at this under your belt, you will be by far the best person to help you. Eat right, get enough quality sleep, drink lots of water, limit your social media consumption and reduce your news intake. Be sure to stay informed, but not saturated. Do your homework, and be as educated as possible on these topics. Avoid the fads and trends and stick with the stuff that is tried and true. Plan for the long haul. And one more thing…Take the red pill