It’s all too much
Are you feeling the stress of constant media updates?
I don’t know about you, but I thought we’d be dialing back the Shelter in Place by the end of the summer and moving back into the world. For a variety of reasons that isn’t happening.
At East Bay Center for Anxiety Relief, we see people struggling with insomnia and discovering that their anxious thoughts are being stimulated by social and news media. Between the upcoming elections, COVID updates, and the opening (and closing) of schools and businesses, clients are reporting elevated experiences of anxiety, annoyance, irritation, and depression.
In these difficult times, there is value in staying informed. On the other hand, there is also value in stepping away from all the news and social media feeds for a bit.
Do you feel a bit disassociated? Are you forgetting things and having a harder time focusing? If you’re finding that your mental health and wealth emotional well-being is a bit fractured, consider a 24-hour detox from news, social media feeds, and even video screens.
Step away from the screen and pick up a hobby
When I hear the word hobby, I think of something that I might do when I have some spare time. For many people, this is particularly challenging because they never seem to have any spare time.
After doing some research on the value of hobbies, I concluded there is more depth and meaning to such activities than I originally thought. I believe it’s worth experimenting with hobbies or developing personal interests, especially during times of instability and chaos.
So I asked the members of COVID the support group that I facilitate to suggest some ideas. Here is their list:
- Bird watching
- Building a model
- Pressing flowers
- Knitting or crocheting
- Reading fiction
- Walking around your neighborhood and taking pictures
- Trying your hand at a challenging coloring book
- Going on bike rides in your neighborhood
- Writing letters or postcards to friends
- Calling someone you haven’t talk to in a while just to check on them
- Canning or pickling those leftover fruits and veggies
- Home brewing
- Building with Lego blocks
- Practicing origami
Here are some reasons how developing a hobby might alleviate your mental frustration and emotional suffering.
Hobbies help structure your time. Many studies have shown doing activities that engage you because you want to do them actually increase your efficiency with your other mundane tasks. Instead of filling your spare time to check media feeds or engage in passive activities like Netflix, try setting aside specific times to engage in your hobbies. For example, commit three nights a week for knitting or Saturday afternoons for origami.
Hobbies promote flow experiences, according to Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Flow activities completely absorb you because you are doing them mindfully. The flow state is one in which your self-consciousness and ego disappears into a timeless space. This trance-like state can be very liberating for the mind and generates improved emotional well-being and mental health. Engaging in a hobby can bring you into this flow state. A simple act such as reading a good book or building a toy castle with your children can lift you out of the COVID chaos. Whatever activity produces the flow becomes its own reward.
And when you return to familiar chaos, you can feel content, happier, and refreshed.
Hobbies can make you more interesting person. Hobbies give you something to talk about other than your worries, gives you something else to post on social media other than fear. You can share experiences that are interesting, funny, encouraging. You can support your friends who are trying to follow their personal interests.
Most humans like listening to other humans who make them laugh, tell stories and seem to have a passion for life with a sense of curiosity. Your hobbies can help you and your friends take a break from the constant barrage of coated tweets and newsfeeds.
Are you ready to start your hobby? I know I am. (Last week I bought a $2.99 Sudoku paperback at the airport and have using it ever since. I am in the flow.)
For more information:
- Flow, the Secret to Happiness: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- The Importance of Hobbies (PDF)
- Need a News Fast? Andrew Weill, MD.
Stay safe, sane and well.