The Checking Habit

June 23, 2016 § 2 Comments


A reader writes,

I‘m obsessed with Sam Heughan from the Outlander series. I feel like I’ve been in a depressive state for the past couple years since the show started. Rationally I realize I don’t really know him and my obsession is mostly tied to Jamie Fraser, his character in the show, but that doesn’t stop me from obsessively checking his Twitter and Instagram or feeling total despair when people talk about him dating someone. The worst part is I’m 34, married, with 2 small children. I feel like I’m missing out on my kids’ childhoods. I just want this to stop but I literally don’t know what to do.

Hi friend. First of all, if you feel depressed, you should 100% talk to a counselor or your doctor. If you can’t afford it, here are some ways you can get basically free counseling. Don’t ever, ever, ever be afraid to talk about fangirling with a counselor. If they don’t understand, explain it to them. Make them do their work!

Sometimes fangirls get stuck in the cycle of a behavior. It can be checking an actor’s social media, watching a show, meeting their fave, whatever. During this behavior, we experience a high. But after that high, we sometimes sink back into guilt, shame, sadness, remorse, etc. This is because during the high your brain has used up a lot of our dopamine, and there’s not a lot left. It takes more and more of the behavior to keep us happy, and we find that we simply can’t sustain that high. If you’ve tried to quit or cut back but can’t, and if you find that it’s interfering with your daily life, then these are probably signs to take action.

So what can you do? Radical self-compassion is key. Move your body through exercise. Schedule social outings with friends and family. Get a good night’s sleep. Talk to somebody who can help you. Ask a friend who also wants to change a behavior to be your accountability buddy. These sound like canned answers, but these are things that we know for sure can help.

Also, be aware of the power of the phone. Smart phones lure us into what’s called a “checking habit,” and we become caught in a feedback loop of constantly checking apps. This is anything but a personal failure. It’s simply a byproduct of technology use. Some actions like plugging your phone up in a different room, or designating “phone free” rooms in your house (i.e. kitchen, dining room) can help limit your use.

Above all, friend, do not beat yourself up. So you’ve gotten into a cycle of being a little too focused on a celebrity. There but for the grace of god go all of us. I’ve been there, and it’s usually a sign that I need to find new ways to love myself and treat my brain a little better. I have to give it something fresh to focus on or get excited about.

The truth is, if you can learn self-compassion at 34, then you’ve got the rest of your life to practice it and enjoy it. This is an opportunity to start something great, right now, perhaps with the help of a friend or counselor. It’s not so much stopping a behavior as it is introducing new ones that don’t burn you out.

You’ve got this! Be kind and be BAMFy.




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§ 2 Responses to The Checking Habit

  • Jill says:

    Thank you so much for your response. I’ve been seeing a therapist for about a year but recovery is a slooooow process and I’m still trying to get my meds sorted out. My therapist is awesome though. What you said about finding other ways to occupy my mind really rings true and that’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I really, really appreciate your compassionate advice. It makes me feel better just knowing there are people out there like you who know what I’m going through and don’t judge me.

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