Off the Wagon

December 16, 2021


Since November 29, I have dutifully stuck to my self-imposed total phone Screen Time limit of 100 minutes.

And then yesterday happened. I was triggered by some suspense followed by very happy news (our residents matched into an incredibly array of fellowships yesterday!) and some kid/school stuff that made me feel frustrated and sad (nothing big, don’t worry, but it elected Feelings in me nonetheless).

And so . . . I scrolled in bed instead of reading or journaling, and I was distracted and busy venting via text when I was with the kids earlier in the night. I was annoyed at myself as I was doing it, and I did it anyway! I read horrific weather disaster news on CNN and COVID-related news articles via Doximity (all total click bait). My feelings were replaced by despair around climate change and a never-ending pandemic so . . .perhaps my strategy ‘worked’?!

Thankfully I did not get tempted to go to Insta. Or shop.

Anyway. It’s a new day, and with my calmer/clearer head of the morning, I can see exactly how I used the rectangular device as my soothing blanket, and I can see how poorly it really worked for me. I will chalk this up as a learning experience and have a better day today.

PS: It is not my goal to entirely eschew news, and I recognize it would be obnoxiously privileged to do so. But panic-reading does not inspire action in me — more like hopelessness and despair, coupled with wasted time AND guilt and negative feeling about that wasted time. So I will stick to my daily Up First briefing and the occasional print Atlantic deep dive. That seems about right.


  • Reply Irene December 16, 2021 at 8:03 am

    I’m sorry. I do this too although have been some what successful at reading fluffy chick lit type stuff instead. I’m honestly happier with scrolling or screens compared to emotional eating which I occasionally fall into when I am really stressed. It’s hard- I have talked to people in the past about handling kid stress in particular but some days the coping isn’t the best. If anyone has suggestions for healthy security blanket type stress relief you can do with your kids (e.g. not running which got me through grad school!!) I would love to hear!

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns December 16, 2021 at 8:05 am

    I think the texting about the school stuff was a healthy way to handle how you were feeling – I’m assuming some of your texting was related to that since your text minutes dominated your screen time. Reaching out to people is healthy and important and that tends to happen for me over text, too! I was stressed this week about an OT visit for our 1yo and I am sure my text and WhatsApp minutes dominated my screen time for the day. I’m off social media right now, too, so am glad I didn’t have that outlet because I probably would have gone down a rabbit hole of searching for pediatric OT accounts which may help but would probably just stress me out further.

    I hope today is a better day. But yay for your residents matching into fellowships!!!

  • Reply Cbs December 16, 2021 at 8:50 am

    I agree that I wouldn’t beat yourself up about texting. My WhatsApp usage dominates my screentime, and I feel ok with that, it’s connecting with friends, family, etc.

  • Reply Elizabeth December 16, 2021 at 8:58 am

    I agree with the commenters! I think it’s great to recognize that general scrolling isn’t helpful for you, and also that you don’t necessarily want to be texting while you’re with the kids. But it’s also fine to tell them “I will be back in 15 minutes” and go to your room and text to vent. Connecting with actual friends over text feels like a positive (investing in relationships) vs. reactionary doom scrolling.

    Also, give yourself grace! We are all works in progress and you’re doing your best.

  • Reply Amanda December 16, 2021 at 9:11 am

    Not related to this post exactly but I’m about 1/2 way through 4000 weeks and I’d be fascinated to hear more of your thoughts on the book. I know you really liked it but it is funny to me that he is so derogatory toward planning systems and inbox zero, etc. Like I said only 1/2 through so far but if you’d consider a post on how the book resonated with you and your systems it would be very interesting to me!

  • Reply Elisabeth December 16, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    The news cycle is so tough; we’ve seen a recent spike in cases (including Omicron) in our little town and school is being released early and it just all feels very “heavy.” I had been largely avoiding the news the last few months, but have found myself cycling through it more and more and it is just such weighty subjects – race, climate, pandemic. I really do think it brings me down and, here’s the thing, I’m already well informed on these topics. I’m not sure why I spiral down in to scrolling through more and more negative news when I’m already weighed down by the very topics being covered.

    All this to say – I feel ya. Been there, done that, and continue to do it. But I also agree – I increasingly recognize that it has a very negative impact on my mental wellbeing.

    Texting is tough – I spend more and more time texting which can be great (a sense of community and friendship and basically the only way I communicate with my family, but I also find it hard to ignore notifications and constantly check my phone which can sometimes lead to those negative news spirals…).

    Ironically enough (given my love for my Apple Watch) I’ve just set up push notifications again. I had turned them off because I found myself distracted by texts on my watch, but now think I’m actually better if I don’t have my phone near me and I’m not wondering if I’ve missed texts etc.

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