Switching off doesn’t mean shutting down…
I don’t like to put too much pressure on myself when it comes to social media consumption, especially in 2020. Twitter and Instagram have been my source of news and updates for the last year. They’ve provided education on innumerable topics that I didn’t know existed outside of the app, and created constant conversations within my social circles and beyond. There’s a whole world of information with continuous accessibility and that’s a lot. It’s no wonder that this year we’ve coined the idea of switching off. As someone who has worked through trauma and subsequent anxiety, I know too well what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, particularly by constant access to my phone. So, if you’re new to switching off or holistic practices, this article is for you.
I won’t drag us through a treacherous timeline of this year’s events, but to put it into perspective… Firstly, we had the mass outbreak of COVID-19 and a lockdown of deep uncertainty. Months later, the death of George Floyd and the amplification of the Black Lives Matter movement flooded our social media pages with extremely important but also traumatic content. Let’s clarify that being able to scroll past content without feeling affected by what you’re seeing is a privilege. So, here’s a reminder to always be mindful of the content you’re sharing with your followers and friends.
The reinforcement of trauma and constant reminder of discrimination was and still is, right at your fingertips. As someone susceptible to exposure to trauma, I know that this can leave us feeling panicked, unsafe, and frankly, scared. Traumatic experiences are scientifically proven to rewire your brain, so we have to make sure we’re practicing self-care to reduce the effects.
On the way out of a second lockdown without clarity of when our social lives will resume, now is the time to be setting social media boundaries and looking after ourselves. We may not be able to control what we see but we can control how we handle it! We want to feel safe in our social media bubble, even when the world outside of it has other ideas. We show up for ourselves on social media but, showing up for ourselves means protecting our minds too.
So, how do we do it?
Starting with the obvious and most overlooked – talking. You’ve seen a lot of upsetting content on social media and feel like the world is past the point of saving (relatable). Talk to someone about it, write it all down, get. it. out. You can’t carry the weight of the world by yourself and why would you want to? Mind stated a quarter of people in England will experience some kind of mental health problem each year. So despite the self-stigma, you may have about mental health, guess what, it’s science. It’s how your brain works, how your body reacts, and most importantly it’s normal!
”We may not be able to control what we see but we can control how we handle it!
Tools for when things get too much.
Many stereotypes come to mind when we think of meditation, but you don’t have to sit humming in a lotus position to reap the benefits. I found meditation difficult at first and part of the reason was lack of practice. Mindfulness takes time to master and it doesn’t always go the way you’d like it to, but luckily for us Gen Z’s, we have the internet to help. There are thousands of videos and guides out there, some of the most accessible being apps like Headspace. I was first introduced to mindfulness when I started therapy for PTSD. I sat, suppressing a panic attack whilst thinking, how is this supposed to work? I give some credit to determination. Mainly because I was desperate for my anxiety to stop. Once I got into it and really put my mind to mindfulness I was there, and I haven’t looked back!
When you begin to enter that feeling of being overwhelmed, acknowledge the build-up, and stop the scrolling. Think about a place where you felt completely happy, safe, and calm. Mindfulness is all about the senses, so try to remember the positive feelings you were experiencing. Say your place is in a field; how did the grass feel on your hands, what did the air smell like, what colours did you see? So when things feel too much in the present, you have somewhere to go to for a few minutes. This has been my saving grace. (many of these visits have been in a toilet cubicle at work)
Breathing exercises are also part of meditation, but breathing is sometimes referred to as its own distinct practice. Whether it’s deep breathing, counting breaths or meditating, breathing can pull you right back down to Earth in no time and it truly works. It reduces blood pressure, relaxes your muscles and the oxygen flow calms your brain. We have lungs for a reason so let them do their thing. Do a bit of research and shop for the guides that cater to you!
EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) AKA the ‘tapping’ technique takes practice but it’s simple, effective, and reduces panic. Following similar methods to acupuncture, EFT requires you to tap on energy points around your body whilst focusing on a strong thought or feeling. As a leading method for PTSD, tapping eases anxiety and encourages relaxation, thus rewiring brain pathways that lead us to panic when we see traumatic content. I know it sounds strange and almost unbelievable but, type it into YouTube and see for yourself (spoiler, it’s great!).
I’ll finish with the irony that our lives are online, this year more than ever. We have so many online requirements but there are ways of fulfilling them with awareness. As well as practicing mindfulness, we should commit to being mindful of our online usage. Despite the level of trauma exposure, we can look to online resources in order to heal the effects. Switching off doesn’t necessarily mean we have to shut down.