This winter was especially stressful for me.
I was in the midst of my first ever round of college finals. The next semester approached quicker and quicker. And why was it 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the middle of December?
Just looking at the weather when I woke up sent me down a spiral of despair. It really wasn’t helpful when I was trying to study for five exams, but I couldn’t help feeling that sinking sensation whenever I opened my phone. The worst part was that there was nothing I could do to stop it. I couldn’t just fly up to the atmosphere to stop climate change. So, I continued feeling that dread.
Right now, humanity is exposed to more information than ever before. Connecting to the internet grants us access to the intimate hardships and joys of billions of people. This makes us hyperaware of all the problems in society, which can lead to that overwhelming sense of anxiety.
Purposefully inundating yourself with negative news – also known as doomscrolling – can cause stress, anxiety and sadness. With all the bad news available to us now, doomscrolling is easier than ever, filling our minds with unsolvable issues.
Constantly consuming content about triggering topics such as police brutality and hate crimes can impact people’s mental health, especially for those who are most affected by these issues. It’s hard to focus on your own joy when you only read news about bigotry against your community.
Along with this, college students are already stressed out. Around 44% of college students in 2022 reported symptoms of depression or anxiety. Anxiety about the world as a whole is compounded on top of school stress, which leads to a paralyzing cocktail of worry.
It’s happened to me before. At points, I’ve been so overwhelmed by the constant influx of bad news that I’ve stopped being able to look at social media altogether. I felt utterly helpless. The huge problems kept getting worse, no matter what I did.
The best way to alleviate this stress, in my experience, is to act. It doesn’t have to be a huge action. It can be recycling a plastic water bottle or donating a few dollars to a mutual aid fund. Even these small, seemingly infinitesimal actions can add up over time.
We can’t fix everything by ourselves. It’s something I’ve had to learn over the last few years. You can’t expect yourself to fix the huge problems that face our country and our world.
So, give yourself a break. Take time for yourself, especially when the topics the media focuses on apply to you. Check in with friends and neighbors who are affected by the constant flood of rhetoric.
This isn’t to say you should stop caring about the issues that are important to you. It’s important to feel uncomfortable sometimes but not to the point where you’re paralyzed by anxiety. Instead, focus your efforts on smaller topics that you can actually tackle and that benefit your community.
When I got home for winter break, I thought about how I could reduce the impacts of climate change. I made sure to recycle my paper and plastic instead of sending them to a landfill. I talked to my parents about picking up trash along our road. Though it didn’t solve the problem as a whole, it helped my community get that one bit better – and in the end, that’s our goal.
Danny William (they/them) is a freshman studying media.