It’s no secret—girls tend to feel anxiety at higher rates than guys. As a counselor, I see a disproportionate number of women on a weekly basis who struggle with anxiety, from slightly distressing to severe and debilitating. Balancing the demands of a career, relationship and parenting can leave any woman stressed. But there’s an often overlooked culprit that influences stress and anxiety in the modern woman: social media.
Is social media stressing you out?
You may view your obsession with social media as a nice “release” or “escape” from reality. The truth is women are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of society’s selfie culture. This has proven particularly true for young women ages 16 to 24. Surprisingly, even older career-oriented women fall prey to social media’s toxic reach, measuring themselves up against one another in terms of beauty, success, relationships, and lifestyle.
No social media platform is without fault, either. According to recent studies, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Pinterest are negatively influencing your self-esteem and basically stressing you out. We already know that social networking websites and apps deprive you of much-needed quiet time and keep your brain on a non-stop information train. But how often you use social media doesn’t seem to be the problem.
Why it happens
The Pew Research Center described the stress-inducing aspect of social media use as “the cost of caring.” That is, the more caught up you get into your friends’ and followers’ lives, the more likely you are to become stressed. If a friend goes through a painful breakup, you start worrying about the survival of your own relationship…and your stress levels rise.
Facebook, it seems, contributes to the greatest amount of distress in the lives of women. In what is known as the ‘highlight reel,’ users mainly post the positive aspects of their lives (e.g. outrageous vacations and flawlessly retouched photos), omitting the financial troubles and date-night outfit flops. Viewing others’ highlight reels from the outside can cause a woman’s self-esteem to take a major dive, and make her anxiously question why her life doesn’t seem to measure up.
What to do about it
Aside from deleting your profile completely, what can you do to minimize these negative effects on your mental health? Try these three easy-to-follow strategies.
Take it with a grain of salt. As you scan your feed, remember that everyone is trying to put their best face forward. Your friends’ lives aren’t as perfect as they make them out to be.
Drop the comparisons; practice gratitude instead. Comparison is and always will be the thief of joy. Rather than comparing yourself to the other women on your feed, carve out time to acknowledge your own good fortune. Start a gratitude journal and add an entry daily.
Unplug regularly. Commit a few hours of each day to being social media-free. Take a walk outside. Better yet, spend time with friends face-to-face.
Stop letting social media get you down. Try the three tips above to limit the stress-inducing influences of your social media use.
If you have trouble controlling stress or anxiety, or if you are tired of social media is Affecting your mood, an experienced therapist can help.
We can discuss specific strategies so you can manage stress with ease and start using social media in a healthy way.
Sources: http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/can-too-much-social-media-exposure-cause-stress-in-women/, http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/15/social-media-and-stress/, https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-anxiety-of-facebook/, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3813662/Depression-anxiety-soars-young-women-social-media-age-experts-report.html, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/29/one-in-four-young-women-suffering-from-mental-health-problems-as/
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