It’s one thing to use technology to stay connected with friends and family; it’s another to spend your time endlessly scrolling through mainstream and social media. Being plugged into the news is a major factor in mental and physical health, registered psychologist Simon Sherry shares. The number of Canadians who say they’re experiencing high levels of anxiety has quadrupled (from 5% to 20%) and depression has doubled (from 4% to 10%) since the coronavirus situation began. (from Summary & Full Report of Findings of MHRC Survey on How Covid-19 is Impacting Canadians)
“Increased screen time can cause anxiety, distractibility and loneliness,” Sherry said. When this is all compounded by fear and anxiety over Covid-19, Sherry said people experience a sort of “digital distortion.” “The distortion being that people are being flooded with negative, threatening, panic-inducing information and that information is becoming over-represented in their mind,” Sherry said.
The number one way you can improve your mental health is to choose carefully the media you interact with on a day-to-day basis. “There’s credible media coverage, but there’s also a different sort of less credible media coverage. And panic sells,” Sherry said. Unfortunately, most mainstream media seems to be the less credible media coverage these days.
“It’s difficult to think rationally and respond proportionately when you’re engrossed in panic-inducing social media,” Sherry said. “That type of behaviour…is going to maintain – if not exacerbate – fear, anxiety and panic.”
Unfortunately for many, the coronavirus situation has meant fewer face-to-face connections and more time alone for many. For those living with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, being asked to stay at home has caused further panic.
Let’s checkin on each other, especially if you know someone staying at home alone. And although it can be difficult to avoid main stream media and social media, individuals can make the choice to “control their response” and limit their exposure to a few credible sources of information, and only accessing those sources once per day. (we recommend avoiding many mainstream media sources at this time)
’11 Million Canadians Could Experience ‘High Levels of Stress’ Due to Covid-19: Health Canada,’ by Meghan Collie, Global News, May 21, 2020
Mental Health Research Canada: Summary & Fall Report of Findings of MHRC Survey on How Covid-19 is Impacting Canadians, April 2020