Arguably very few people will come out completely unscathed and untouched in terms of mental health after living through the current Covid-19 pandemic and a succession of lockdowns. There has been a general sense of doom and gloom as well as boredom. Thankfully we may be out of this pandemic at some point this year if vaccination proves and continues to be effective.
While the lockdowns have not affected me too adversely, or so I tell or kid myself, there have been anxiety-inducing moments. I have made two lifestyle changes in the past few months to make my life easier: cutting down on doomscrolling and caffeine.
Doomscrolling involves constant consumption of negative news, particularly on social media platforms. Given the state of politics as well as Covid-19, there have been many negative and frightening stories and very strong opinions. Even though what I see on my Twitter feed is largely determined by whom I follow, and the simple solution would be to stop following people breaking bad news and follow those who post pictures of cats instead, I also find Twitter a good source of information and various opinions, helped by the brevity of tweets. Individual tweets in isolation are often useful and insightful, but when aggregated and constantly updated, the feed becomes a dark wall of doom. There is something addictive about the never-ending and ever-refreshing doom, and on some days I was spending hours on Twitter. A while back I stopped following the news too closely on social media platforms, for the simple reason that there is not much that I can do and there is no point worrying or getting angry about it. Happy is not the word I would use to describe how I feel, but I am less anxious when I check my Twitter feed, once a day at the most for a few minutes.
From late autumn to early spring every year, I struggle somewhat with the dark, long nights. My sleeping pattern becomes irregular, and consequently I find it difficult to concentrate or complete tasks during the day. This winter has been tougher than usual. In the last few years, I have attempted to cut down caffeine consumption, with limited success, and the idea would have been unthinkable previously. A heavy drinker of coffee and tea, I was taking in a lot of caffeine every single day, whether at home or when out and about. Now, confined at home, I have one cup of strong coffee in the morning, which is desperately needed, then I drink tea, caffeinated until 4 o’clock in the afternoon, decaffeinated thereafter. I have been pleasantly surprised by the range of decaffeinated tea available, including Earl Grey as pictured. I had initially set the cut-off time at 6 in the evening, but I changed it to an earlier time, and that seems to provide a better quality sleep.
Cutting down on doomscrolling and caffeine has freed up time and perhaps more importantly energy that I can expend on more enjoyable activities such as reading books and updating this site. Longer hours of daylight also help. However somewhere in the back of my mind, I have a nagging fear that I will relapse and end up with caffeine-charged doomscrolling.