TODAY. Nature works because it has an inner intelligence that overrides any human intervention you through at it if you let it rest for a while. We have that inner healing capability when we let ourselves take a pause. Choose today. Do not postpone it.
Do you feel more peaceful being having 24/7 social media when isolated? Does it make you feel rested and balanced? Does it bring comfort? If you spend one hour on your balcony tending flowers, does your mind feel the same as scanning a social feed of dozens of messages and news?
Perhaps you do not feel rested and are a digital contrarian like I am. What does that mean?
How to keep to the facts and ration
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), outbreaks may be stressful for people, especially the fear and worry it raises. CDC’s article for coping with stress lists how differently we cope and react to stress and ways to mitigate it – as an example:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body. (E.g. meditate, practice deep breathing, eat healthy, exercise, avoid alcohol and drugs, try to get more sleep)
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
In fact, every mental health article I have read so far recommends limiting the screen time of crisis news. Having said that, it is naturally important that we can access factual news, information, and awareness about the situation and important for our self-care. However, when and if you start feeling exhausted, frightened, fearful, or depressed, you may have been exposed to too much information too frequently.
I keep track of the official governmental sources several times a week, just to ensure that I take the right course of action. Same with the internal corporation newsletters. It has been important to me that I am knowledgeable and aware, instead of obsessed with the latest news.
What does a digital contrarian do for self-care?
First of all, why do I call myself a contrarian? Very early on, when social media became flooded with the news about pandemics, I decided to ignore them. The few posts that I looked at and double-checked were partially factual, which made the truth twisted. There are so many factors that are different, depending on who you are, where you are, in which conditions a study was made, etc. that it simply became unnecessarily stressful to read what was not quite fake news but definitely taken out of context. You cannot control social media. However, you can control what you take from it.
I am digital in the ways I work and spend some of my free time. Even so, my coping mechanisms as a digital contrarian are somewhat different to the majority of digitally advanced users. Here are some of the ways I balance myself in the current and other crisis:
- Be selective: Instead of wanting to communicate constantly with everyone, I choose my communication channels. I prioritize the communities I have been part of before. I personally do not gain more time in crisis – on the contrary, I need more to take care of immediate concerns. It means that I cannot spend more time on social media than before.
- Be self-aware: I monitor my physical and mental balance. I realized very early on that it was triggered by crisis-related words. I am careful about using words that may trigger stress reactions in me or others. It serves no purpose if the context is already there.
- Be focused: Instead of spreading your time on various communication platforms, consider that the digital medium is like breathing. The faster you are breathing the more energy you consume. Imagine breathing calmly and taking social media and news likewise. With calm, considerate inhales and exhales you stay focused on one thing at a time, and on the priorities.
- Be selfishly caring: You can become over-caring. People matter, but I have seen many people spreading their resources extremely thing lately because “normal” change does not stop even in crisis situations – financial, health, family, friendship, work, and other challenges continue sometimes and often despite other occurring circumstances. You cannot exceed your energy levels without jeopardizing your health. The last thing we want is creating more vulnerabilities. Consider your endurance before you jump on to caring about everyone else.
- Be there. I have not joined a single new group during the past months in social media. I also reduced engagements with groups I was on. I realized that during the days I was stressed about the global crisis, I was hooked on social media feeds. Positive images, yes, but I realized that time could be used much more proactively by sending regular ‘how are you’ messages to my close ones, and inspirational images that I had always shared. Someone with 100 other comments on their feed is going to be ok if I am out of touch. Who may need it, is an elderly relative who has only been exposed to newspapers full of a single current crisis topic aside from the daily comics.
- Be curious. Despite the challenges, I try to discover what inspires me, what comes to mind in those quiet moments when I let my thoughts wander without trying to concentrate on any single thing. Sometimes you find that spark from your childhood days. Was there a song that made you smile, is there a story or a poem you loved, was there a show that you liked to watch? What if you recreated that feeling? I am sure you remember thinking at one point or another: “If I only had one moment to be alone, I would….” And even if you are sad, or feeling down, accept that it is how you are feeling at that moment. Find that small starlight that spurred you on even in the middle of early on when looking for your true identity.
Nature can heal us – even indoors
I know I am blessed to live in a country that allows me to move about in nature. However, as I am in the risk group with a low-performing immune system, I have my challenges and limitations, not just now, but for years. Age is not the only defining factor in that.
Even in my most challenging days, I look outside to the flowers I had help from my family to plant, and at the great, old birches swaying in the seasonal breeze. I look at my photographic archive and write down what comes to my mind from the image. Often only a few sentences – my signature Nordic poetry session. I do not mind if no one reads my poem when I share it online with the picture. That moment is mine, and I am happy if someone takes notice. I know there are many people out there who read without engaging. I respect that. If I engaged in everything others are doing, I would never create anything of my own.
It is difficult for most people to understand that stress is not only a mental condition. It impacts people physically, and some of us more than others. I am living as a digital contrarian when others spur you on to engage. I need to. It is the only way I can reserve energy to keep what health I have and focus on the ones closest to me. They will still need me when most of the world has long since forgotten that one ‘like’ and comment on their post.
Stay well and take care of yourself!
“The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:—
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the shew to me had brought:
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.”
- CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
- Academy of American Poets: https://poets.org/