The amount of accessible information increases exponentially every single day.
The digital era has brought along with it a consumption issue, an insatiable thirst unquenched even by the ever-growing availability of information.
One trip to the web finds us absorbing inconceivable amounts of data. And that amount isn’t necessarily problematic. What is a problem is the lack of quality control when it comes to all of this information. Another problem is our own inability to filter our exchange of information with others.
And given the current climate of the world, an information overdose and/or need for detox is totally understandable.
I’m not the only one plagued by the fact that there is just SO MUCH information hourly, daily about COVID-19 and what to do about it, am I?
Before this pandemic arrived I was a gatherer of information. As a person with several chronic illnesses that isn’t all that uncommon. Many of my illnesses required data collection for diagnosis and still for monitoring and management.
And as a person with Type 1 Diabetes collecting data is a part of daily life. I need to know where my blood sugars are before engaging in activity and prior to dosing my insulin, for example. Then there is all that CGM data…
Information overload is an entirely real danger. A point will be reached when the volume you consume becomes overwhelming – even if that information is meant to be helpful – and you are left more confused than you are informed.
This constant consumption can leave our minds clouded, render us confused, and make it difficult to confidently make decisions.
TMI – Too Much Information?
The problem is the amount of information being pumped out daily takes over valuable space in our minds. And because that information is ever-changing (especially now) it is a constant barrage to our brains making it difficult to concentrate and process.
When we are unable to effectively process what is in our brain, we leave a trail of unfinished thoughts in our wake. Sadly, we often perceive this juggling of ideas as progress, and inevitably that counterfeit multi-tasking will hinder our ability to concentrate and focus.
And that makes differentiating between falsehoods and truths complicated. If even possible. And it is why scams and fake news are so prolific and successful.
Being inundated with sensationalized information and scientific reports based on fact can have equally negative effects.
When we are overloaded with information we cannot think critically. Our breadcrumb trail of thoughts is consumed by the next one and leaves us lost in the same circle disguised by seemingly new information.
And that can lead to misguided decision making.
And with so many sources of information, it is impossible to not only keep all of the information organized but it becomes increasingly hard to know who exactly you are supposed to listen to.
No wonder people are fucking burnt out…
You need to make sure that you are not overloading your brain with information, even if it is a meme or funny video that makes you laugh. Too much of that, while easier to take in, is still too much information.
The uncertainty about this virus and the unfolding changes to daily life are enough to make anyone anxious. Feeling anxiety and fear are completely normal.
We have all had a disruption of some kind or another to our daily life.
The arrival of COVID-19 in all the media has undoubtedly triggered folks to do a lot of negative what if-ing and worrying. And while we are all susceptible to these, I can’t help but think about those who suffer from chronic and mental illness.
While my last post gently joked that I was built for quarantine life, it didn’t dive as deep as it should have and it didn’t address my profound ability to launch myself head first in to worst case scenarios.
My physical chronic illnesses have me at a higher risk of contracting anything. A virus that attacks your respiratory function is especially scary because I have to be extra careful due to damage from previous bouts of pneumonia and respiratory infections.
So, you can fucking imagine my panic when I woke up last week slightly fevered, congested, and inexplicably exhausted. I did little more than lay on the couch for two days. The state of me scared my husband enough to take an emergency day off from work.
It is possible that we overestimated the situation. But a call to the doctor eased those worries as we were told to carefully monitor my symptoms and immediately seek help if they worsened. Thankfully, they did not.
A fuck ton of rest and warm lemon water did the trick for me, physically. My emotions and my brain took a few extra days to catch up and level out, unsurprisingly.
Anxiety is also indicative of information overload, as is fatigue, irritability, emotional exhaustion – the list goes on.
We need to make sure that we are moderating our media exposure. It is important that we know the difference between being informed and being overwhelmed.
Our want to be informed can expose us. And, if we do not moderate our media exposure, we risk our mental health.
Rally the Data
I love a list. In fact, some might say I’m list obsessed. Want to know a secret? I even re-write lists if I deem too messy. I also love information and research. I get a real kick out gathering up stuff and making something of it.
Even if that is all the readings from my CGM.
For years I managed my T1D with finger pokes. And for years, I did a shit job of it. I checked mostly at meals and nothing beyond that. Which isn’t enough.
Until recently, I was utilizing best practices while I was pregnant. Testing every 2 hours (as advised by my prenatal endocrinologist) and keeping a log. Something else I couldn’t be bothered with prior to a life growing inside me.
Several years ago, my then clinic gifted me a Dexcom G4 for a week. It was life changing, and all the data it provided was enlightening. All 14 glorious pages of it!
But we couldn’t afford the system. So I went back to limited finger pokes, because test strips are also expensive, until eventually we had enough savings to splurge on a CGM.
Thank fucking everything, we finally have benefits that cover my Dexcom G6. We will NEVER recoup the savings we lost (upwards of $5,000) while self-funding the G5, but it was worth it. AND, we never would have been able to keep that amount as low as it was without the generosity of some stellar souls, who shared abundant supplies with me.
There is a catch to that magical robot part of mine: it provides information.
And sometimes I obsess over it. Whether I’m constantly checking my phone for updated glucose levels or pouring over countless sheets of months worth of data in order to tweak my insulin levels. Sometimes I don’t know when to stop.
Having the ability to analyze my blood sugars can find me distracted by readings. And, in turn, leave me overwhelmed by all the data they produce. Because no matter what information you are looking for, if you look too much you will skip over important details and leave poorly sourced data unfiltered.
Sometimes even helpful information needs a pair of fresh eyes.
Quality over quantity, baby.
It was one of the first things I ever learned about eating with T1D, and I will never forget the dietitian in that very first class. A (newly diagnosed T2D) gentleman asked if he could still have ice cream, and her response was, “of course you can! It isn’t about denying your cravings or wants. Have that ice cream, but just one scoop!”
Or something like that.
Regardless, the message was clear.
The current situation with the pandemic is riddled with uncertainty. And that is understandably anxiety-provoking and stressful for everyone, but fuelling those emotions with an abundance of information can be harmful.
Anxiety can also birth denial and that can be equally unhelpful.
So how do we fucking sift through it all?
We should be mindful of what we feed our brains. Our mental health is deserving of the same care and attention as our physical health.
Grant yourself permission to feel anxious. It is a completely normal reaction to uncertainty and things that may bring us harm. Ground yourself when you feel your anxiety starting to climb, take deep breaths or snuggle under a warm blanket.
Whatever works for you!
Allow yourself to be informed, but filter what and how much information you consume. Even social media is flooded with all things COVID-19. Be mindful of all your media exposure. Instead of logging in, unplug and go for a walk or read a book.
Do not be afraid to take a step back.
And remember to control the things you can. Like how much and what information you allow yourself to consume.
We are resilient. More so than we think we are.
And that may sound strangely optimistic from someone who resides in the grey zone.
But having hope has nothing to do with being happy or grey. In fact, having hope is what allows me to be grey, to live in to the emotions that I have, and feel the feelings that I feel.