After a long day at work or a tough day at school, what do we do to destress? Binge watch our favorite shows? Scroll through Facebook and/or Instagram? Watch YouTube videos?
If we take a moment and look at how many negative messages we are exposed to within an hour of TV or even 10 minutes looking through Facebook, it can be surprising. Just looking through my Facebook for 5 minutes presented me with “Three Bipolar Symptoms No One Wants to Talk About,” “Overnight Stabbing,” “10 Overlooked Signs That You Have Cancer,” and “The Biggest Giveaways That a Woman is Cheating,” and these are just a few examples. While watching TV how many commercials do you see for medication? Or for lawyers? Now, I’m not saying that some of this information isn’t beneficial to have, but when every other posting is something negative it can get to us.
If we look at this from an evolutionary/psychological perspective, it is no wonder that many people are living with anxiety and depression.
Back in the early days of mankind, we had many things that caused fear and anxiety. These were things like bears, lions, and hunger. I call this the "get dinner versus be dinner" struggle. The human body has an amazing ability: when we are exposed to a stressor (be dinner vs. get dinner) it enhances some systems (strength, energy, focus) and decreases other systems (digestion, sex drive). This can be essential to our modern lives such as in the case of a threat of violence (fight or flight) or an important meeting with the boss (enables focus). One problem with this biological response is that it usually takes between 20 and 60 minutes for the body to get back to the calm state that we were in before the threat occurred. Now think back to all the threats that we are exposed to on social media. Our bodies do not know the difference between a lion chasing us and an article about the “10 Overlooked Signs That You Have Cancer."
So what can we do about it?
Filter your Facebook/Instagram/YouTube- Stop subscribing to negative people and/or “news” sources. They will all still be there if you want to read/watch them, but by unsubscribing you are ensuring that their negative messages do not show up in your feed when you are trying to relax.
Less watching, more doing- Step away from the TV, computer, iPad, phone, or whatever technology is in your hand. Go for a walk, sit on your porch and drink a cup of tea, cook dinner with your partner, put on some loud music and hop around the house, play a card/board game.
Call someone who makes you feel good- When was the last time you actually called someone? I don’t mean text, but actually called. If you're around my age or older, I’m sure you remember a time when you used to lay on your bed and talk for hours on the phone. Remember that feeling? Recapture it!
Ask yourself, “Is this something I should be nervous/anxious/fearful about?”- Our bodies respond the way they are going to respond without much help; it's automatic. But, thankfully, our minds can be trained to override this function. One easy way is to remind yourself, “I am safe, I am [in my bedroom, in my office, etc.] nothing is happening, except what is happening right now.” Or to use a physical grounding technique such as using your 5 senses to name things you can touch, taste, see, smell and hear. Both of these exercises can help to bring you back to the present and reduce anxiety symptoms
In short, by limiting the amount of stressors we are presented with on a daily basis we can all take small steps to living a less stressful life.