Social media has now become part and parcel of life. It’s a tool that we use to stay connected with our friends and family, get in touch with businesses, and learn various tips and tricks. Social media offers a multitude of benefits, but it also has its downsides. Excessive social media usage can contribute to depression, loneliness, and low self-esteem.
Scrolling through social media can also lead to constant social comparison. We’re constantly bombarded with pictures that represent the best versions of other people. Sometimes, we can’t help but compare ourselves to them, and we end up feeling like we fall short. This sort of thing can really have harmful effects on our mental health.
It’s important to navigate the world of social media with caution, especially in the current pandemic when many of us are stuck at home and on our phones more than ever. Here are 5 tips to protect your mental health when using social media:
1. Limit your screen time
Research shows that limiting your social media use to 30 minutes a day can lead to significant improvements in well-being. With the current pandemic, many of us are working at home in isolation and that can get pretty lonely.
Sometimes we reach for our phones and check social media as a way to catch up on how everyone is doing. When you feel the urge to connect with someone, text or call a friend instead. This ends up feeling way more rewarding than scrolling through social media.
2. Unfollow people or influencers who make you feel bad about yourself
Our social media feeds are flooded with images of the perfect bod, home, vacation, and life. In reality, with all the photo editing softwares out there, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. Why put yourself through that torture?
If you follow someone whose posts constantly make you feel bad, unfollow them. Follow accounts that make you happy instead. Accounts that provide inspirational content, motivational quotes, career tips, etc. You owe it to yourself to create a virtual space that’s positive and uplifting.
A few months ago, I was following someone whom I had a bad experience with, and every time this person popped up on my feed, I would get triggered. I continued following this person because I thought it was rude to unfollow them, but I realized I wasn’t being fair to myself. If something triggers me, I have every right to remove it from my life. Ultimately, we need to do what’s best for our mental health.
3. Avoid using social media first thing in the morning and right before bed
The first few and the last few hours of your day are precious! The first few hours of your morning gears you up for the day. You want to fill your cup with positive things such as nourishment, self-care, and exercise. Using social media may lead to comparison with others and negative thoughts that may affect the rest of your day.
Similarly, you want to create a relaxing nighttime routine before bed and minimize your screen time. There’s nothing worse than seeing something that triggers you on social media right before bed! You end up not being able to sleep, tossing and turning in bed thinking about it.
4. Practise gratitude journaling
Perhaps you want to limit your social media us, but you need to be online for work purposes. From my personal experience, the greatest danger social media poses is that it triggers comparison. Seeing someone doing really well somehow makes me feel like I’m not good enough.
As a blogger, I do find myself online quite a lot to engage with readers and other content creators. I have to admit, I’ve fallen down that rabbit hole of scrolling through social media and feeling bad about myself more times than I’d like to admit.
Recently, I started gratitude journaling for my latest 21-day challenge, and it’s been a really positive experience. I journal in the morning and at night before bed, and it forces me to focus on all the positives in my life. My attention shifts from what I don’t have to what I do have, and it leaves me feeling grateful for all my blessings.
5. Talk to yourself as you would to a friend
If your friend was feeling low about themselves after seeing something on social media, what would you tell them?
You’d probably say something like this: “Hey, you’ve accomplished so much in your life! You’ve done … and … Everyone has their own journey and timeline. You do you and things will fall into place.”
But what do you tell yourself when you’re feeling low? “Oh gosh, I suck! I’m not good enough, and I’m worthless.” Does this sound familiar?
We really need to be our own allies! My social media is constantly filled with pregnancy announcements and as much as I feel happy for others, a part of me also feels shitty about myself. I start to question whether I should have had kids already, whether I’m doing the right thing, whether it’s ever in the cards for me.
I used to spiral and feel really low when I’d see these things online. But I’m trying to talk to myself as I would to a friend.
Nowadays, I tell myself: “Hey, you know yourself. You throw yourself into every new adventure and if motherhood came along before this, maybe you wouldn’t have rediscovered writing or started your blog, and you needed to do all those things to find your purpose. You’re in a better place now than you were two years ago. Things will fall into place at the right time for you. Till then, enjoy the adventure.”
This self-soothing approach has worked for me, but there are times when I still feel pretty low, and talking to my loved ones about it helps too.
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Navigating social media can be tricky. We are constantly being fed information about the world around us and our peers, and it can get mentally exhausting. It’s important to limit our social media usage and connect with our loved ones in real-time instead. Your mental health is everything! So, be sure to take these steps to improve your well-being in this social media driven world that we live in.
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