Goodnight Blue Light: How to Deal With Social Media Stress

Before drifting off to a slumber filled dream of unicorns and rainbows, I must first say goodnight to all my friends that live within the confines of a rectangular box.

Lying among crisp white sheets, my pillow fluffed ever so slightly, and the plain, marshmallow comforter draped just below my chin, my face reflects a light blue hue.

Goodnight Facebook, just one last look. Goodnight Gmail, time to sail. Goodnight Instagram, time I ran. 

Ahh social media.

I start my day with a scroll of what my friends ate and end it with a slot machine pull of twitter, in case I missed a trending topic that changed the world.

Social media has become less social over the years and more media.

We are taken in by bright lights and cat videos on repeat. By the end of the day, I find myself exhausted and overwhelmed. I’m not anymore busy than anyone else; work, home and kids, so why was I crashing so hard every night?

Social media is draining. And you are not alone

THE CAUSES

Frequent Facebook users have been shown to have worse mental health than those that do not use the platform as regularly. Users who have had negative interactions on sites have shown higher rates of depression.

Social media stress comes from seeing the perfect wedding, a newly-purchased home, posh vacation or the sweet feet of a newborn baby. All these images only show one-side of the coin.

What we missed was the couple fighting in private about the mother-in-law trying to be the star of the show. That newly-purchased home, not so new, and now countless sleepless nights wondering if they can afford the mortgage, and that posh vacation may be a couple’s last chance at saving their marriage. We see the newborn and forget the years of infertility the mother suffered.

The image never tells the whole story. But when we are overextended and exhausted from the day, a thumb scroll past the Maldives pic doesn’t tell the whole story. And it hurts.

It all began very innocently.

It’s simply a set of links meant to nurture relationships between people we know and people we don’t. The relationships are direct or indirect. By commenting on someone’s post, sending them a private message or engaging in a thread of discussions, we are directly putting ourselves in the line of socializing.

Indirectly, we scroll.

And boy do we scroll and scroll and scroll!

  • Average adults spend 38 minutes a day on Facebook
  • 16-24 year-olds spend 3 hours a day on social media
  • Facebook gets 1.4 billion users a day
  • YouTube has 30 million active users a day
  • WhatsApp boasts 1 billion users a day
  • The average user spends 53 minutes on Instagram a day

BALANCE IS KEY- 5 THINGS TO DO RIGHT NOW

Whether its whipping through Instagram at lightspeed, flipping through trending topics on twitter or telling people on Facebook how our kid made the winning goal, it’s a part of our lives and our children’s lives that is here to stay.

Simply telling someone to turn it off or put it away is not enough.

It is vital for our businesses, and like any new technology has immense benefits. The key is finding that sweet balance between taking the good and leaving the bad.

1. Limit time to 30 minutes

When we have access to it at any given time of the day and night, we lose track of how much time we are really spending on the apps.

I allocate 30 minutes in the morning, and 30 minutes 1-2 hours before bedtime.

Checking social media too close to bedtime disrupts sleep and keeps negative topics front of mind. I do task blocking. In those 30 minutes, I check and respond to emails, if they only require quick replies. I post or comment on Facebook, make a quick tweet or update social channels as needed for business.

2. Turn off notifications or phone totally

If we need to get any other task done: writing a blog post, helping kids with school work, or just enjoying a chat with your loved one, silence your phone.

I have all notifications turned off or silenced when I’m working on anything not directly related to my social media time. I have been known to keep my phone turned off for hours on end. I don’t need others to have access to me when they want, I choose when they get access.

It’s impossible to focus on a task when the phone in your hand keeps buzzing or pinging. Our brains were not meant to multitask, so what you are doing is actually forcing your mind to switch back and forth continuously between checking phone and holding a conversation with the person right in front of you.

It’s not fair to your brain, or to your loved one.

3. Remove the app from your phone

If you are finding yourself with stress headaches at the end of the day, irritable and overall mental fatigue, I highly recommend removing the app altogether. Not giving yourself easy access and forcing your mind to take a mental break might just be the reset button you need.

When you check during your allotted social media time, check on a computer. Or login through the website app on your phone. The same principle applies to improving your diet and wanting to eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

If you want to eat healthier, make the junk food harder to get. Don’t bring it in the house to begin with.

Make the apps harder to get to. Check from your desktop.

4. Get an alarm clock

I bought an alarm clock, for the first time in almost 10 years. Way overdue. The excuse of having our phone in our rooms, connected and used as an alarm clock no longer holds any credit.

In our home, I make my kids turn off their phones and keep them outside their rooms. I do the same. I don’t want it to be the last thing I look at before sleeping or the first thing I reach for when I wake up.

It is up to us to be in control of how we manage our time, what information we consume, and where we want our minds to focus. Since implementing this practice, I sleep deeper, more restful, and have many more dream-filled sleeps. Many people do not reach the S4 stage of slumber, which is the deep, restful, restorative sleep that helps our bodies to recover from the day.

When patients tell me they can’t turn their phone off at night because they use it as an alarm clock, my response is always, “Buy an alarm clock, they’re not expensive, but they are priceless. No excuse.”

5. Spend one hour a week on a creative hobby

If you can find 40 minutes a day to scroll Facebook, you can surely find one hour in the WHOLE WEEK to spend on a non-social media activity.

Read a book, listen to a book, write a book! Try yoga, painting, or even a walk around the neighborhood (turn off your phone notifications).

Research is overwhelming on this. People who spend two or more hours a week on a creative activity show significantly greater mental well-being.

But, the key is to turn off your phone while doing the activity, otherwise it’s like holding a lit match in one hand and the baby in another. Do NOT recommend.

What ways have you found to help minimize social media stress?

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