Don’t Let Social Media Give You the Year-End Blues
Do you tend to have anxiety or depression symptoms during the holidays? If so, it may help to reduce your time on social media, as it can amplify negative emotions. A recent study found that people with symptoms of depression or anxiety tend to be high users of social media. In addition, the more they use social media, the worse their symptoms. While this study did not specifically address mood and anxiety levels during this time of year, you may want to be mindful of your use to protect your mental health.
There is a lot of pressure to have a joyful season; unfortunately not everyone has a positive experience. Between loss, family conflict, financial uncertainty and a whole host of other issues, this can be a stressful and challenging time for many. A recent poll from the American Psychiatric Association found that nearly one-third of respondents expected to feel even more stressed this season compared to last year. Much of this stress was related to financial problems.
The problems with social media use during the holidays
- Social comparison: When people post on social media, they often post the best things that happen in their lives. The end of the year often reinforces this tendency. Social media feeds are filled with pictures of beautiful decorations, happy families and travel to beautiful destinations. As you scroll through social media and see picture after picture like this, and your life pales in comparison, it’s only natural to feel bad about yourself. What you don’t see is the family dysfunction, financial stressors, mental health problems, or any unhappiness that may also exist in these people’s lives. When you are already in a depressed mood, it is often difficult to have a critical eye on social media. It only makes you feel worse about yourself and your life.
- The FOMO (fear of missing out) potential: Seeing photos and videos of family members and friends who live far away and got together during the holidays without you can feel very painful and isolating. It can be even worse if there are pictures of people together who do live near you and have not included you in their plans.
- Unnecessary anger: Social media gives everyone a soapbox to express their opinion. Seeing people on social media with strong beliefs that conflict with yours can fuel anger and contribute to depression and anxiety symptoms.
- Problems seeking reassurance: I previously wrote a post about people using social media to seek reassurance and validation. It can backfire when you feel bad about yourself, post on social media and don’t get the validation you want.
What to do instead of being on social media
- Reach out to friends and family in other ways: Isolation during this time can be a problem for many people, so reaching out to loved ones is essential to feeling connected to others. Make a list of people you enjoy talking to, and consider including people you’ve lost touch with. If you’re hesitant to reach out to those you haven’t spoken to in a while, know that they’ll appreciate hearing from you.
- Move more: Extensive research has shown that increasing exercise and physical activity can help reduce symptoms of depression and low mood. The challenge is that when people feel down, they are less likely to want to exercise. If you need help figuring out where to start, list all the possible things you’d be willing to do inside and outside. Choose activities from that list that feel most doable.
- Help others: Volunteering can be a great way to boost mood. Consider the different causes that are important to you and look for opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way.
- Make a gratitude list: Make a list of all the things you are grateful for in your life. As you make a list, let each item sink in and think deeply about each one.
- Use media that lifts your mood: Is there a favorite book, movie or TV show that makes you laugh or feel good? Consider visiting again.
- Get creative: If you enjoy arts, crafts, cooking, or any creative endeavor, use the extra time to tackle a project.
- Decorate your space: If you have downtime at the end of the year, you can use it as an opportunity to donate unused items, clean that area that is bothering you, or even add more lighting in your home. The shorter, grayer days that occur during the season may contribute to mood swings, and adding more light can be helpful.
Be mindful of your social media use
It can be a time with many different emotions. If you are prone to sadness or anxiety during this time, be mindful of the amount of time you spend on social media and how it makes you feel. There are many other things you can do with your time that can lead to feelings of improved well-being.