Taking care of yourself emotionally is a huge part of your overall health.
While social media can be a good way to feel connected to others, it can sometimes be draining and stressful. It’s easy to begin basing your self-worth on the number of likes your last post got, or get caught up comparing yourself to others. Some studies even suggest that screen time and social media may be contributing to increases in anxiety and depression in teens. It’s not clear that this is true, but it does mean that it’s a good idea to keep checking in with yourself and practice some self-care.
Here are six ways to take care of yourself when social media is a major part of your life.
1. Remember that people are not their social media presence.
It’s easy to scroll through your Instagram feed and begin to feel bad because your life isn’t as fun or glamorous as those you see online. Remember that no one lives a life full of perfectly-plated food, permanently surrounded by a gaggle of best friends. People do not look like their everyday selves after they’ve been photo-edited and filtered. Even if you know this, it can be hard to internalize. If you find yourself growing jealous or feeling inadequate, remind yourself: people are not the social media version of themselves.
2. Remember that you are not your social media presence.
Don’t let FOMO dictate your life. While there’s nothing wrong in using social media regularly, letting it determine what you do on a daily basis may make you stressed out and put you on edge. Make sure you occasionally ask yourself: Am I just doing this for the photo? Step back from Snapchat and recharge doing something that you like to do, whether or not it’s Instagrammable.
3. Be mindful.
As you’re looking through social media feeds, take a second to check in with yourself. Do you feel happy and energized? Or tired and preoccupied? Why are you feeling this way? Are certain people’s posts stressing you out? Is this how you want to be spending your time at this moment? Adjust your social media habits to fit your needs. If you notice that engaging with specific people online makes you feel down, unfriend or unfollow them. They don’t need to know! Your mental health takes priority.
4. Consider taking a break.
If you’ve realized that spending time on any social media platform makes you feel tired or irritable, consider taking a break. It can be liberating to eliminate unnecessary stresses from your life. This is especially true if your feed is filled with posts about police shootings, sexual assault cases or other emotionally demanding topics. Don’t feel bad about taking care of yourself. It’s ok to take a step back.
If you’re spending more time online and less time hanging out with friends or family or doing other activities, it may also be time to take a break (or at least cut back). If you let social media replace time hanging out with other people, it may make you feel isolated or lonely.
5. Get rid of guilt.
People around you may poke fun if you Instagram your meal or take an extra second to get the right angle for your selfie. But so long as you’re being safe, considerate to others, and making yourself happy (and you’re checking in with yourself to make sure that’s true), keep doing you! Don’t feel guilty about the things you genuinely enjoy.
6. Don’t ignore cyberbullying.
Bullying is always serious, whether it’s online or in person. If someone is consistently posting hurtful comments on your or someone else’s posts, take action. Block the offender, report the abuse, and talk to someone you trust about it. Cyberbullying can sometimes be worse than “normal” bullying because it’s more difficult to get away from. Don’t read or engage with what bullies are posting, if you can—no one needs to read that trash, and you need to look after yourself. Get off social media until you feel safe going back. If you’re being cyberbullied, you may feel angry, lonely or depressed. Remember: you are not alone. Talk to someone you trust–a parent or caregiver, doctor, family friend, or teacher–about how you’re feeling. You can also chat online with Stomp Out Bullying for support and additional resources.
If you’ve been feeling down, have trouble doing everyday activities, or have stopped doing things you used to enjoy, talk to a doctor or consider seeing a therapist. Some people think that therapy is only for people with a mental illness, but that’s not true! Therapy can be helpful for anyone who wants help processing their feelings, or who wants to grow as a person. If you’re 10-22 years old and live near NYC, you can make an appointment at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for free, comprehensive health care, including mental health services.