Being able to take a break from Covid-19-related news is a luxury – but it’s something I must do to preserve my mental health, writes Stylist’s senior digital writer.
I feel a desperate need to escape right now.
Escape the news. Escape social media. Even escape certain people who seem scarily preoccupied to talk about one thing and one thing only – and that, my friend, is Covid-19.
18 months into the biggest global pandemic in recent times and we’ve found ourselves back where we started in March 2020. So much so that I came frighteningly close to baking banana bread the other day and it was a truly sobering experience.
The news that the UK recorded 78,610 daily Covid-19 cases on Wednesday has sent me shivering, and I can feel my anxiety rise with each passing article I see. From reading that we may need to cut down on socialising in order to salvage Christmas to concerns around rising hospitalisations, any lingering sense of normality I felt over the past few months has completely disappeared.
And it doesn’t stop with reading and watching the news. Open any social media app (Twitter in particular) and I’m flooded with information that subconsciously seeps into my brain with each scroll about deaths, cases and potential lockdowns. The result is the fear and anxiety I once had has begun to creep up again and it’s hanging over me like a damn mask-wearing cloud.
While I recognise it’s important to be informed and know what is happening in the world (especially for those who are forced to reckon with this awful virus every day, those with health concerns or vulnerable elderly relatives to worry about), I desperately fear going back into an anxiety-ridden Covid-19 hole that I’ll struggle to get out of if I don’t take a break away from the news for the sake of my mental health.
And it’s seemingly a feeling many of us share. As I spoke to friends and family this week, so many of my loved ones have dissociated themselves away from the news in order to preserve some sort of sanity and not become swallowed whole by all things Covid like we did last year.
But this time, it feels more sinister – almost like we’re doomed to repeat the same experience over again and then suffer the dreaded emotional turmoil that comes with it.
This time, however, I refuse to succumb to it. I’m choosing to remove myself from Covid-related conversations if I wish and embrace escapism where I can – but that doesn’t come without some guilt.
Guilt that being able to “escape” even just for a moment is a luxury as many of the admirable frontline workers who have been so key throughout this whole ordeal don’t have that choice. Guilt that for some, staying up to date with every detail is the only way to ease their anxiety. And the guilt that the mention of Covid can bring about complete sorrow as they’ve lost loved ones and will never be able to escape any of it even if just for a second.
Navigating that space of being informed but also setting boundaries for your own wellbeing can be tough. But it’s something that I just have to do.
I can no longer scroll through my feed, jaw clenched and blood boiling, while feeling completely drained by it all. Nor can I continue talking about Boris and the Christmas party saga for hours on end – I’m just completely and utterly done.
As we near the end of the year, I feel a strong desire to bury my head in the sand just for a little bit and I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is OK.
If I feel like watching a cheesy Christmas movie or spending a few minutes laughing way too hard at random TikToks, so be it. After all, we all deserve to take a moment to have a mental break where we can, while ensuring that we are still doing what we can to keep ourselves and others safe and tapping into the news when needed – but balance is truly key and it is something I’d encourage us all to do.
So don’t feel guilty for wanting to mute that one friend who persistently sends you Covid updates every five minutes or for muting “Covid” and “pandemic” from your Twitter feed. We all deserve a breather and it’s time to own that.