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Dealing With Social Media-Induced Stress During the Holidays

    For some people, the holiday noise on social media can be a downer. A steady stream of cheerful holiday posts can exacerbate stress and even depression. But because of how we have acclimated to our usage of smartphones and the internet, these holiday posts can sometimes feel inescapable.

     How to deal with social media-induced stress during the holidays.

    While the holidays can be a time for merrymaking and spending time with loved ones, it can also be a time when people feel lonely and isolated, especially when dealing with grief or a recent loss. And exposure to social media can amplify our emotions in many ways.

    According to a survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness in 2015, 64% of respondents reported experiencing the holiday blues, with 24% stating that the holidays affected them significantly. The holiday blues can manifest as feelings of tension, fatigue, loneliness, and isolation, which can be exacerbated by grief and loss.

    A recent survey conducted in 2021, which involved over 2,000 US adults, revealed that more than one-third of the respondents did not want to celebrate the holidays due to grief or loss.

    How to avoid social media-induced holiday blues   

    Whether you adore the holidays, feel stressed by them, or fall somewhere in between, it's important to prioritize your comfort and joy. To fully enjoy your holiday season, avoiding the negative impact of social media is essential.

    Know your why  

    One way to do this is by focusing on your "reason for the season." This reason will vary from person to person, so it's important to consider what you love most about the holidays. Perhaps you enjoy decorating and crafting, while others look forward to spending time with family. Some may even prefer a peaceful and quiet holiday season. 

    Confidence in your values can help minimize envy or comparison guilt when you see others doing something different.

    Establish boundaries  

    It's important to prioritize what matters to you during the holidays and let go of what doesn't. This means setting boundaries and sticking to them, even if social media influencers suggest certain holiday activities or items as "must-haves" or "must-dos."

    Make sure you're participating in activities that align with your values. This will help you feel enthusiastic and energized about them rather than anxious or stressed.

    Minimize social media use  

    A study conducted in 2018 at the University of Pennsylvania found that restricting social media use to around 30 minutes per day could greatly enhance one's well-being. Although 30 minutes might not be feasible for everyone, reducing social media usage to a maximum of two hours per day during the holidays could still have some positive effects. 

    Social media apps like TikTok and Instagram have a screen time feature where you can not only track your time on the app but also schedule screen time breaks and sleep reminders. This is a great option when you tend to lose your sense of time when scrolling. You may also explore other app options, like StayFree, Social Fever, and Offtime.

    Another way to help you minimize social media usage is to ask yourself the following questions:

    • How does social media make me feel?

    • Do I act or feel differently on days I am scrolling for long periods on social media?

    • Has it affected my productivity at work or school?

    • Has it impacted my mood or anxiety? Has it affected my sleep?

    • Does it affect my self-esteem?

    Your answers to these questions can be a compass for how you approach and use social media, so you’re more mindful about taking breaks. Furthermore, your answers to these questions may differ during the heightened emotions of the holidays, so it’s best to do regular checks with yourself. But if social media is making you upset about what you don’t have during the holidays, it’s okay to give yourself the gift of total separation from it. 

    Get moving   

    If you're feeling down after scrolling through social media, try getting 30 minutes of exercise. Actually, it's recommended that you get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day, regardless of how social media affects your mood. Physical activity can help reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and boost energy levels. 

    When to get professional help  

    The holidays can be challenging for many people, and it's okay to seek help if you're struggling. If you find that you're not coping well with life stressors, it may be best to seek the help of a professional counselor or therapist.

    The bottom line  

    The holiday season can be triggering for some people, particularly those who are dealing with grief or a recent loss. It’s important to remember that there’s no “correct” way of spending the holidays. If certain holiday traditions trigger you, avoiding them and the deluge of holiday posts on social media is best.

    It’s essential to figure out what brings you joy and prioritize accordingly. Setting boundaries can also help you focus on what’s important to you.