How To Deal With Stress From Social Media

With our work, relationships and lives becoming more dependent on technology, our sources of stress are shifting too.  Social media is one sneaky aspect of that stress that many of us have mixed feelings about.  We want to stay connected with friends and family, it’s VERY socially acceptable and encouraged (despite advice from The Social Dilemma), and for many of us, it’s the only way we are consistently communicating with one another.

All that aside, the social media stress is REAL, and there are some really simple and actionable ways to deal with it.  Here are some tips for dealing with stress from social media.

First things first – it’s helpful to understand the stress response in your brain and body. 

Simply put, our social media interactions, when left unchecked, are patterned very similarly to a habit:

1. we experience a stimulus: a notification badge, a ding, or a visual cue like your phone screen lighting up.

2. we have a brain + body response: Our brain gets a hit of dopamine because it’s been stimulated, and our curiosity is piqued.  Our body feels a rush and we get the impulse to act. 

3. We react to the stimulus and the feelings by grabbing our phone/switching browser tabs to check or respond to the notification.

This pattern isn’t unhealthy or stressful in and of itself, it’s just chemistry.  The stress comes from a couple things: First,  the constant interaction/disruption from our devices, and second, a phenomenon many experts are calling technostress.

Both of these are important to understand so I’ll start with the interruption/distraction. Our brains are not designed to handle constant input of information and distraction that is common with social media use.  It’s exhausting for our brains to process the images, videos, text, and information overload we get by scrolling through our social media feeds and studies show, this frequent technological multi-tasking is negatively affecting our ability to focus on any specific task for a prolonged period of time.  This might seem like a small problem, but when it comes time to try to focus on something and get it done, social media users may experience heightened stress at how difficult it is to focus and follow-through.

Secondly, let’s better understand technostress.  The stimulus-response cycle we experience when we see notifications and respond to them creates feedback loops in the brain that tell us (subconsciously), to keep checking our devices for more stuff, even if we’re feeling stressed out by the activity.  Scientists are calling this phenomenon technostress – which I’ve deconstructed in this article if you want to learn more.

It’s pretty clear our social media use is stressing us out, but how the heck do we deal with it? 

Many of us are not willing to downgrade to a flip-phone and communicate via snail-mail, so here are some ways to deal with stress from social media and still live your digitally connected life (in an intentional way):

1. Set limits on your tech use internally and externally.

This is a basic exercise in setting boundaries with yourself and your technology and is an excellent place to start.  (If you want to be guided through this process, check out this free 5-day social media detox).  To set limits on your tech use so you can better deal with social media stress, it’s essential to understand what it is about your use that’s causing your stress in the first place. 

I recommend making a list of what’s stressing you out – whether it be certain people, ideas, exhaustion from use, or maybe you aren’t sure yet and you’re just stressed and don’t know why.  (That’s okay too!) Once you’ve identified your stressors, it’s time to make an agreement with yourself.  What would you like your social media use to look like?  What would make it less stressful for you?  How many minutes per day do you want to devote to your feeds?  Once you’ve decided, write these new ideas down somewhere, and set limits with the help of your technology. 

All smartphones have app timers so you can choose to automatically log yourself out at after a specified amount of time. If you’re sneaky with yourself and will login on your desktop after your phone timers run out, you can check out the app Freedom – it allows you to set timers for all your browser tabs and even block yourself from certain websites.  They have a free trial if you want to check it out. Set these timers and limits and stick to them.  When you get the urge to add more time and stay online, remember you made the decision to cut back to decrease your stress from social media, so it’s an act of self-love and self-care to log off.  Sticking to it might seem hard at first, but once you’ve decided it’s what you’re doing, it might be a welcome relief and reminder when the timer goes off and logs you out.

For more ideas about how to set limits and make your technology work for you, check out this article outlining how to do a digital detox.

2. Find a support group or buddy. 

FOMO is a real thing when it comes to dealing with stress from social media.  We’ve gotten used to seeing everyone’s highlight reel and it keeps us coming back for more every time we’re on our phones.  Find a support group of others who are feeling stressed out with their social media use and share your feelings and your goals (ideally in a direct-message format).  This will help you feel more supported in the process and when things get stressful you have someone to turn to rather than defaulting to the most stressful activity of social media: the cyclical scroll.

(I have a free community centered around setting healthy boundaries for better relationships with yourself and your loved ones where we talk about social media a fair amount.  Join for free below:

3. Communicate about what you’re doing.

In your process of finding support, it’s important to communicate with others about what you’re doing.  Saying it out loud helps with accountability and it will reduce the stress related to worrying about what others will think of your new social media habits.  Tell others in a post that you’re feeling stressed and what you’re doing about it.  Be clear with your friends and family and you’ll most likely find some support you never knew was there.

4. Take a break.

The best way to deal with stress from social media is to know thyself: are you someone who needs to quit something cold-turkey in order to reset?  Or are you someone who does well with creating rules and goals for a new habit and sticking to them on your own?  Are you best supported by a group or a buddy?  Are you self-motivated?  Whatever version you are, you’ve gotta be realistic with yourself and set goals that support your natural way of being or it just won’t work. 

Sometimes having some space away from social media can help you get clear on what you actually want and need – and research shows that even ONE day away from your technology can help lessen the stress response associated with the use of apps and social media.  Take a day off.  Take a week off.  Take a month off!  Spend some time analyzing how you feel, and use these questions to dive in: 

what does my SM provide for me? 

Are there less stressful ways to get the same results? 

5. Have compassion for yourself.

We’re all struggling with the same addictions and stressors when it comes to social media use.  It’s an industry that works hard to keep your attention and get you to re-engage with it over and over again when you decide to step away.  Know that you’re not alone, and you WILL slip back into your old habits from time to time!  (That’s okay, you’re human).  Keep a pulse on how you’re feeling and adjust your social media use as-needed.  Remember not to beat yourself up in the process – you’re doing amazing work and ahead of the curve just for researching this topic. 

Want some extra support?  Schedule a free call with me:

How To Support A Partner With Anxiety

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Anxiety is a tricky emotion, especially when it happens to your partner.  Chronic anxiety can begin to negatively affect your conversations, your ability to interact healthily with one another, and your relationships’ support structures.  It’s important to understand how to support a partner with anxiety so your partner is able to process their emotions and you’re able to feel grounded and taken care of in the process as well.  There are a few key strategies to understand – but first – let’s examine the emotion.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is the body’s response to worry and fear.

Anxiety is a normal and even healthy emotion.  In small amounts, anxiety motivates us to make better decisions and stay in integrity with our values systems.  Our bodies are meant to react to our worries and fears – so in many ways, anxiety can be really healthy.  

Anxiety becomes unhealthy when it’s prolonged, heightened, or disproportionate to the reality of a situation.  This includes symptoms  like:

• constant worry about things outside your control

• Fear or phobias that affect your ability to interact with others or perform at work

• Spin-outs into worry or anger over small stressors throughout the day

According to the National Alliance Of Mental Illness, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. 

Over 40 million Americans are afflicted by anxiety, so if your partner is one of them, they are certainly not alone!  Here are some of the feelings and bodily sensations associated with anxiety.  A basic understanding of  your partner’s physical and mental state will help you support them when the anxiety is happening.

Body sensations:

Anxiety experiences can vary, but many people report bodily sensations on two different spectrums:

  1. A feeling of electricity and hyper-arousal.  Imagine your body’s nervous system is lit up like a fiber-optic Christmas tree with each nerve ending sizzling with energy and discomfort. 
  2. A state of numbness and disconnection.  The stress response is exhausting, so many anxiety-sufferers disconnect from the stress-feelings in the body and feel completely numb, as if their head were floating independently of their body.

Mental state:

On a mental level, in a full-on anxiety episode or attack, your partner’s thoughts might be moving way too fast for them to be able to tell you what’s going on.  When this happens, the anxiety-sufferer is ‘off in another world’ and will often need help to come back to the world you’re living in with them. 

It’s important to remember: it’s not your responsibility to ‘fix’ or ‘mend’ the anxiety emotion.  If you want to support your partner in the process, it’s important to take a few steps first in order to be helpful in a way that’s healthy for both of you. 

Here are some action steps you can take to support a partner with anxiety:

1. Have an open conversation about the anxiety when our partner isn’t anxious. 

One of the healthiest and most supportive things you can do for your partner is to speak openly and without judgement about their anxiety.  It’s important to make sure this is done gently and supportively, when your partner is not in a high-anxiety state.  I’d recommend asking questions to open the conversation – such as: I’ve noticed you’ve been feeling some extra stress over _____ lately.  Want to talk about it?  

2. Develop a support plan together.

This is the most powerful way to support a partner with anxiety.  Ideally the two of you would develop an anxiety support-plan together.  Creating a plan together helps your partner feel loved, seen and taken care of in the process.  One important note here: If you try to make a support-plan without your partner knowing, it will NOT go well.  Start at step one and have a conversation about it so you can understand what your partner wants and needs.  If you decide to try to ‘fix’ your partner’s anxiety with a plan of your own without them knowing, they’re probably going to feel pressure from you to ‘hurry up and fix it’ which can heighten the anxiety response.

A support plan might be as simple as: Operation Disney Movie Night! Or, an invitation to go outside for a walk.

Some of my favorite healthy suggestions include:

  • Any type of gentle movement– dancing, walking, or biking are great.
  • A change of environment, like going for a drive or moving to another room in the house, or sitting in the backyard.
  • One for your anxious partner (that you can prompt them in to) is environment recognition.  Since anxiety takes you out of the here and now, your partner can re-anchor themselves by looking around their immediate environment and identifying things: that cup is cream with blue words on it, That’s a green succulent in a brown pot, the grey house across the street has white trim etc. etc.  This could be prompted by a partner or done individually by the anxious partner.
  • A mindful sensory experience.  Smells, physical touch, and tastes can gently bring the brain back to the present.  A light massage, cold shower, bath with aroma-therapy, or a comforting, fragrant soup can all help ease the anxious feelings.  (A note here: all of these activities can be done mindlessly, so it’s important to slow down and try to sink into the experience.  Ask your partner if this is a good strategy for them before deciding to try to implement it).
  • A funny show or light movie might do the trick.
  • Peaceful music paired with some gentle yoga.
  • Supplements like magnesium or Cenitol (which I have lovingly called chill-the-fu*$-out powder).
  • High-intensity exercise, like sprints, burpees, or a short HIIT workout can be a quick-fix for certain personality types with anxiety.

It’s important that you both take into consideration your personality types and what will feel natural and doable for each of you.  Make your plan realistic and unique to who each of you are and how you want to show up for each other.

3. Encourage finding professional help (if it’s chronic/repeating/getting worse/negatively affecting your life together).  Sometimes even the best laid support plan will fail.  We are not meant to figure everything out on our own, so professional support is often an essential part of anxiety support for your partner.  Encourage your partner to get help, and be open to talking about what they learn about themselves in their sessions.  A mental health professional might be the best way to come up with a support plan for your partner.

4. Understand your own feelings.  This is a big one.  You’re in this relationship too, and your feelings matter just as much as your partner’s.  Monitor your own feelings while you’re attempting to support your partner with anxiety and make sure you take the time you need to feel supported in your life as well.  You will not be able to support your partner if you aren’t getting the support you need for yourself, so make sure you’re taken care of first.  I recommend this simple (free) meditation linked in the image below for supporting yourself when your partner has anxiety so you can feel protected, grounded and calm.

3 Signs Of Unhealthy Boundaries

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Healthy boundaries aren’t something many of us think about on a daily basis. The D.A.R.E. drug dog comes to mind when I think of boundaries: JUST SAY NO!

Childhood smoking aside, boundaries are much more vast than saying NO to harmful substances. Healthy boundaries, when correctly created and enforced, help you protect your time and energy, get what you want, and live life on your own terms.

It’s commonplace to hear statements like: ‘If only I had the time’, or ‘I just don’t have the energy or motivation’. I’d challenge each statement to say, you DO have the time, and the reason it feels like there’s no time and you’re out of energy is that your precious resources aren’t being protected. When you start to hear these excuses in your head, there’s probably an opportunity for enforcing healthier boundaries.

Here are a few signs of unhealthy boundaries you can use to check in with yourself.

Want to discover where you’re at on the healthy-boundaries spectrum?  Take the quiz here.

There are three common signs of unhealthy boundaries:

  1. Over-Committing.

Over-committing is often paired with a knee-jerk ‘yes’ response. Many of us don’t realize we’re over-committing until our minds are fuzzy, we’re late for our next meeting, and projects start to slip through the cracks. Over-committing leads to feelings of ‘not enough’- there’s not enough time, you don’t have enough energy, and your to-do list is daunting and never-ending. If you’re someone who over-commits, you’ll often end up resenting some of your commitments even though you made the decision to commit in the first place. Over-committing points to an opportunity for healthier boundaries around your time, energy, and clearer insight about what’s important to you and what’s not. Once that picture of what you want is really clear, it’s easier to do the editing required to align with what you actually want to show up in your life.

2. Exhaustion following conversations and interactions with certain people.

The second sign of unhealthy boundaries is exhaustion following interactions with certain people. Sure, you’re not going to enjoy talking to everyone – but if there are certain people in your life who leave you feeling exhausted after every interaction, there’s probably an opportunity for better boundaries. Relationships that result in exhausting interactions require inner emotional boundaries and external communicated ones. Inner boundaries involve protecting your energy and deciding how you want to feel ahead of time (I have a great guided visualization for that here), and outer boundaries involve speaking your truth in situations where your energy and values might be violated, and speaking clearly about what’s appropriate in a conversation and what isn’t. Enforcing healthy boundaries DOES take energy, so it’s essential to prepare yourself for interactions like these as an act of self-love and self-care.

3. People-Pleasing.

The third sign of unhealthy boundaries is a common midwest personality trait: People-pleasing. Where I live we call this Minnesota-nice. Since I’m not an MN native, I’ve been able to witness and study this fake-nice phenomenon without the deeply-rooted social programming many people have here.  While it’s an over-simplification to say that every ‘nice’ person in Minnesota is passive-aggressive, I’ve seen lots of evidence that the overly-nice nature is actually the result of a boundary-issue. Minnesota-nice and people-pleasing are essentially the same and look like this:

I’m going to be nice to your face, and be who you want me to be when we’re with each other, and then go talk about how horrible and demanding you are to someone else. I want you to like me, so I’ll do what you ask and ‘play your game’ so to speak, but I’m not happy about it.

This is a boundary-issue. Performing a task or ‘playing nice’ because you’re primarily concerned with what others will think of you when you don’t, means you’re living according to everyone else’s rules and expectations. In a sense, you’ve removed yourself from your personal thermometer of wants, needs, energy levels, and desires to give someone else what they expect of you. This opportunity for a boundary makeover is twofold: inner boundaries need to be enforced around an awareness of what you want and need, and outer boundaries need to be communicated – ‘yes I will do this for you (but on my terms)’, or ‘no I will not’.

These boundary-issues are by no means an exhaustive list. There are many signs and opportunities to build better boundaries and transform old ones to fit each new expression of our lives.

Are you working on setting healthier boundaries in your life?  There’s a free community for that!

Productivity, time well spent, access to energy, emotional support, satisfying relationships, and great conversations all have ONE thing in common: healthy boundaries. I’ve created a free community that’s a supportive, educational environment for people who want to create and use healthy boundaries. Boundaries are so much more than saying ‘no’. When used correctly, they help us get everything we want in the most supportive way possible.

How To Do A Digital Detox

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They have a name for the type of tech-user I used to be: The Constant Checker.

According to the American Psychological Association, in recent years a type of technology user has emerged called the ‘constant checker’.

The bottom line is this: our devices are addictive, we’re always on them, and it’s stressing us out.

Turn your screen to Grayscale.

Set time limits for your social media accounts (and DON’T extend them).

Make a plan for what you’re going to do INSTEAD of scrolling, checking email, and texting.

Turn off your notifications.

Keep your phone out of your bedroom.

Set ‘cell phone hours’ for yourself and your family.

Schedule 30 minutes of intentional, non-screen time each day.