For the last few years, I had a habit of occasionally culling my social media feeds. It was almost like I was doing a Marie Kondo on my online media. Twitter feeds and Facebook pages that seemed angry or that gave me anxiety when I read too much of them would be unfollowed. I would find more feeds on Twitter that spread beauty and talked about the Faith. Eventually, I had pared down my feeds to family and feeds that weren’t too news-driven.
Then the Coronavirus pandemic started.
Slowly, my carefully curated feed became a steady feed of tips (sanitize your groceries before you put them away), information on how fast it will spread (everyone will be sick in a month), predictions of deaths (two million at least), and a non-stop death count from other countries (and look! we’re only a week and a half behind Italy and they’re not helping the old or sick). Every time I logged on to social media, the sum total of everyone’s one or two posts meant to help because so overwhelming that I was dealing with one long anxiety attack, complete with chest pains and a lack of sleep.
Then I decided last weekend that I was going to delete the apps for Facebook and Twitter from my phone. Instagram is still a safe place, mainly filled with families who test my resolve not to be envious of people who get to hunker down at home. (My husband and daughter are staying home, but I work at a bank, which is an essential business. I’m still working 20 hours/week.) I deleted the apps on Saturday evening after posting a message about doing so. And on Sunday, I started my detox.
Sunday went much better, and after five days off those platforms, I can say that it has drastically improved my mental and even physical health. I stopped feeling overwhelmingly anxious, my chest isn’t tight and painful any more, and I can deal with my allergies without wanting to go get tested every time I cough. (And I cough a bunch every morning and any time I spend too much time outdoors.)
I still enjoy Instagram, and I even occasionally look at the news and read an article or two about the pandemic. But there’s a really big difference:
I am choosing what I’m going to read.
Before I felt as if everything was being thrust at me, and it was like an avalanche of information and bad news. These days, I am fully aware that it’s there, but I am not constantly exposing myself to the five million articles each day. I feel like I’m allowed to live in this moment. I can take today without having to worry about tomorrow or the next day.
In the sixth chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells us the following:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
And during his Urbi et Orbi message on March 27, Pope Francis, too, reminded us of another passage from Matthew’s gospel when he told us to look to Christ Crucified for our hope and security:
Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.
In this time, look to Christ. See how He cares for us, and, as St. Peter reminds us, cast your cares upon Him. And, if you have to, cut down on social media (or cut it out altogether). Find ways to reconnect with God and lean on Him. Take care of yourself by caring for what you’re putting into your mind right now.
What measures have you been taking to stay mentally healthy during times of lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing?
Text and images ©2020 Christine Johnson