The holidays are fast upon us and, in the blink of an eye, Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve will have already come and gone. Along with the holiday season comes much time spent with family from near and far, attending parties, preparing elaborate holiday dinners, and buying expensive gifts to show loved ones how much we care about them.
For some, the holidays are a time to reconnect with family and friends they might not get the chance to see at other times of the year, bringing about feelings of joy and happiness. But for others the holidays can stir up unwanted feelings of angst, depression, and anxiety, and the holidays can be triggers for eliciting feelings of low self-esteem and shame by drawing comparisons to others.
Holiday-related anxiety and depression can stem from family conflicts, divorce, complicated blended family dynamics, and recent deaths of loved ones. Also, disappointments around major life events, such as unexpected job loss or difficulty finding a job, financial struggles, and disappointments around intimate relationships can be sensitive topics that would want to be avoided and not be discussed openly at holiday gatherings.
When we feel badly about ourselves, our social media habits can exacerbate these feelings, making difficult times more difficult. Spending hours on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter witnessing friends and family enjoying their holiday season, their vacations, or celebrating momentous occasions can elicit deep feelings of depression, envy, comparisons, and shame. When we’re going through tough times, setting unrealistic expectations and putting pressure on ourselves to make the holidays “picture perfect” as may seem to be the case for our “friends” on social media can set us up for feeling worse.
Below are 5 tips to help with curbing social media during the holidays:
- Gain a realistic perspective around social media. It’s normal for us to showcase our achievements and the highlights of our lives. This is part of the human condition. But, no matter how wonderful a person’s life might appear on social media, life has its down moments for everyone.
- Cultivate mindfulness regarding social media habits. Work on developing mindfulness around the time of day you use social media. For example, if you have a particularly challenging day ahead of you, going on social media in the morning may not be the best decision, especially if it will trigger bad and lingering feelings, making it hard to get on with your day.
- Tune into your emotions. Before going onto social media around the holidays check in with how you’re feeling. If you think seeing posts of friends and family having fun engaging in holiday activities will make you more angry, envious, sad or anxious hold off on going on social media for that hour, day, or week. Wait until you’re in a better emotional place before going back on social media.
- Consider joining online groups that can provide emotional support. For some, stopping social media or even pulling back from using it as much might be an unrealistic goal. Consider broadening your virtual relationships to include support groups or joining groups and/or professionals pages that offer both advice and support.
- Make an in-person plan to see a trusted friend or family member. Having positive relationships are crucial for good mental health. So, cultivating and making an effort to maintain our important relationships is paramount and should be a priority. Whenever it’s possible, up your communications to being in-person. When this is not a possibility use text or private messaging before resorting to more public and less intimate social media sites. Be conscious of not completely relying upon social media as a means of communicating with and relating to close friends and family.
As with all things in life, nothing is either all good or all bad or completely wrong or absolutely right, so striking a healthy balance between time on social media and time off and between holding on and moving on should be helpful, especially if this holiday season might be particularly challenging.