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Could 'Doomscrolling' be harmful to your health?

Posted at 5:19 PM, Oct 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 20:17:35-04

Eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have been spending more time online than ever before.

With this extra web time it's easy to get sucked in to looking in to the candidates, the issues, and a lot of times, negative articles. It's so common, in fact, that it now has its own name - 'doomscrolling'

Combine the pandemic with the current contentious election season, and some could even find themselves getting sick from their constant scrolling.

According to Dr. Jim Polo, executive medical director for Regence BlueCross Blueshield, "Some people may have found that they are 'doomscrolling' or 'doomsurfing,' which means that they are scrolling or surfing through the Internet looking at negative story after negative story, even though it's sad, disheartening or depressing."

Dr. Polo says spending too much time looking at negative media can lead to serious problems like worry, anxiety and fear, which oftentimes leads to emotional difficulties. He says, "It can also lead to physical discomfort with eye strain, blurry vision or headaches."

Polo says there are some key things you can do to avoid health problems that can arise from 'doomscrolling.' These include:
1. Remember your purpose - "What did you go online for? Stick to it and make sure you finish what you started."

2. Set limits. - "Use a timer. Make sure you're only online for the amount of time you want to be."

3. Be Mindful/Know Your Triggers. - "Understand your body and emotions. Know what your triggers are when you're starting to feel uncomfortable or anxious. Use those triggers as a guide to change your behavior."

And for your eyes and that digital strain, he suggests the 20/20/20 rule. "That is for every 20 minutes that you spend online, take a 20 second break and make sure that you're focusing your vision at least 20 feet away."

Polo says, most importantly, don't forget to make the time to take a break from it all. "Turn your computer off, connect with friends or get active. Get into a project or a hobby that you enjoy, better yet, get outside for some fresh air."

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