The holidays are fast upon us. This time of year brings time spent with family, a host of parties and shopping for gifts. For many, it is a joyous time to reconnect with loved ones. But for some, holidays can stir up unwanted feelings of angst, depression and anxiety, which can trigger feelings of low self-esteem and shame, especially when comparisons are drawn to others. A deluge of social media posts from friends and family can often exacerbate this.
Holiday-related anxiety can stem from family conflicts, divorce, complicated blended family dynamics and recent deaths of loved ones. Disappointments around major life events such as unexpected job loss, financial struggles and other sensitive topics can also lead to stress.
When we feel badly about ourselves, our social media habits can heighten these feelings. Spending hours on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter, where there are posts of people enjoying their holiday season, vacations, or celebrating momentous occasions, can elicit feelings of envy and shame. When this happens, it’s important to set realistic expectations.
5 tips to curb social media use during the holidays:
- Gain a realistic perspective of social media. Social media is meant to showcase achievements and highlights, not real, everyday life. No matter how wonderful a person’s life might appear, life has its downs for everyone.
- Cultivate mindfulness regarding social media habits. Determine an appropriate time to check in. Checking the morning of a particularly challenging day may not be wise, especially if it will trigger negative feelings.
- Tune into your emotions. If you think seeing posts of friends and family having fun and engaging in holiday activities will upset you, hold off on going on social media until you’re in a better emotional place.
- Consider joining online support groups. For some, pulling back from social media is an unrealistic goal. Consider broadening your virtual relationships to include support groups and professionals that offer advice and support.
- Make plans to see a trusted friend or family member. Having positive relationships is crucial for mental health. Make an effort to maintain important relationships through phone and text communications, and whenever possible, meet in person. Those are far more intimate and private options than social media.