Keeping Up With Coronavirus News Is Not Worth Jeopardizing Your Mental Health

It’s a morbid fascination to watch a complex system implode. I’ll crane my neck to see the aftermath of a bad highway crash. I’ll sit back and munch popcorn as I catch up on my favorite new corruption scandal. And now I’ve anxiously glued my corneas to the slowly crescendoing global meltdown induced by the killer COVID-19.

Why do I give so much attention to something I can do so little about? Honestly, I don’t ask myself questions like that enough. That would require a more zen approach to my digital life. Ha. The opposite of my recent morning-evening-and-everything-in-between news refreshing habit. The coronavirus has made me a compulsive scroller, clicker, reader, Youtube commentary watcher, and lately even *sigh* CNN viewer.

My name’s Phil, and I’m a coronavirus news addict. I need help. I need some calm.

Now, I don’t not meditate. But the sometimes still waters of my mind are no match for the distressing rocks and boulders that keep getting flung in. My head’s more turbulent than a 747 in a supercharged wave pool.

And I’m ashamed yet masochistically sort of proud to say the turbulence is self-inflicted. Every session scanning news headlines on Reddit’s r/coronavirus is another obsessive-compulsive search for a bigger, shinier, more significant boulder to heft into my mental spring.

Why watch so closely, though? I’m young and healthy. I’m socially distanced to the extreme in my lonely studio apartment. Just ask my new friend, Mrs. Broccoli Sprout. She’ll be the first to tell you I’ve been an anxious and isolated loser boy just like the smart magazines told me to be. Wow, is she mean.

My room has a view, a densely serene slice of forest with a rocky stream rolling through. It’s relaxing enough to make me look up from my screen for 2.7 seconds before sweatily whipping back to the Breaking News that things did, in fact, just get a little worse.

I’m not against staying informed with locally relevant information. But I’ve had enough of the anxiety inducing slow-drip IV of real-time global meltdown. I’ve seen the trend-lines, the Days-Behind-Italy graphs, and it’s obvious the situation’s going from bad to worse.

Sure, society can work to curb the pandemic, but all Phil can do is stay home and wash his hands. Done. Now what?

Ignoring the global conversation goes against my basic constitution. Geopolitical news is my fantasy football, but this season might just be too expensive for me to buy in.

My body needs exercise.

My heart needs connection.

And my spirit needs to create meaningful work.

I can’t promise I’ll never read another highly consequential yet totally irrelevant Coronavirus article. All I can say is, I’ve been bingeing on speedballs of COVID-19 updates for weeks, and I don’t feel very good about it.

The news trajectory won’t change. But with focus and discipline, my mental health will.


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