Is social media bad for our mental health

Social media is a huge part of a majority of our lives. But is this having a negative effect on our mental health?
A poll of 1500 14-24 year olds recently revealed that social media sites (such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter) have increased their feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

Poll – https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/19/popular-social-media-sites-harm-young-peoples-mental-health

Out of all of these, Instagram has been deemed the worst social media platform for this (probably because it’s predominately image focused). The poll revealed that social media poses body image worries, worsens bullying, promotes sleep problems and increases the likelihood of obtaining anxiety, depression and loneliness. On the other hand, the poll also praised social media for the following reasons: self-expression, self-identity, and emotional support.
So let’s divide this post into positives and negatives and look at the question in further detail. We’ll start with the negatives so that we can end on a positive note.

The negatives…

1. Firstly, it is not unknown for social media to be perceived as a filtered sense of reality. We usually only show the most positive aspects of our lives. And this is okay – it’s great to post the positives. However, it does sometimes mean that it leads to people critically comparing their own life with others which gives them a false measure of successes and failures. This is where it can get dangerous.

2. With a false sense of complete reality out there, insecurities lead to low self-esteem particularly with image focused accounts such as Instagram and Snapchat.

3. Expectations of what the ‘perfect’ body looks like (if there is such a thing) can lead to insecurities, body dysmorphia, and depression particularly with the opportunity to edit photos alongside the list of ever growing filters – insecurities are only on the rise.

4. Sleep problems are also heavily influenced by social media. We’ve all heard the stories, perhaps even guilty of them ourselves – where we’ve stayed up until 3am watching YouTube videos and browsing Facebook and Instagram before realising the time.

5. Cyber-bullying is unfortunately a negative element of social media and is something that cannot be ignored.

The positives…

1. Social media isn’t all negative. In fact it’s a very powerful tool which can enable us to reach more people. For me, this is great as it allows me to raise more awareness for mental health. For others, it has helped them raise awareness and money for charity projects on which they may be working.

2. There is also an opportunity to reach people who are also passionate in the same areas as you. For example, I have connected with other mental health ambassadors and also those who are on the road to recovery. This is great as you can be (almost!) in a world where stigma doesn’t exist.

3. There’s also the benefit of tailoring your online community to those you want to follow and those you don’t. You can also block unwanted negativity from your pages (which proves more difficult to do within the real world).

4. Through social media, I have found that myself and others have used it to display their journey but also to begin the road to recovery. The first step of recovery is acceptance and social media can actually help you to do that – whether you want to share your personal story or not. So in a way, social media can actually help those with mental health conditions.

To summarise…

Are we more comfortable online than we are in the ‘real’ world?

I think this is the question we need to consider. From here we can decide as individuals whether social media has a positive or negative impact on our lives. Social media can be great, but like many things it does carry negatives along with it. It’s important to get the balance right. Although social media can be a great way to communicate in the modern world, it is not healthy to invest too much time into it. Real life friendships and communication are incredibly important and should not be overlooked.

Mentalhealth.org recently posted a blog post (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/social-media-and-young-peoples-mental-health) which shares signs to help you identify whether you are being adversely affected by social media. I have posted them below so that you can make a personal judgement as to whether you think social media may be affecting you in a negative way.

Personal review…

• Do you have low self-esteem?
• Do you feel low when you see other people’s images and lifestyle?
• Do you envy other people’s lives/wish your life was like someone else’s?
• Do you consider social media as your first and only choice of activity done for enjoyment?
• Recently feel disconnected and don’t have as many face-to-face conversations with your relatives and friends?
• Being unable to do anything without feeling you need to share it online?

This appeared as a guest blog I wrote for worthliving.co

Anxiety and alarm systems have more in common than you think…

We like having alarm systems in our homes and places of work. They alert us to danger and help keep us safe. Now imagine that the alarm system keeps going off unnecessarily; the alarm can sound at any time, even when there’s no danger present at all. And aswell as being unpredictable, you struggle to stop the alarm and you can’t control how long the alarm sounds for. This means that you struggle to get your work done and find it really difficult to relax. All you can do is hope that the alarm will stop and won’t return any time soon.

Continue reading “Anxiety and alarm systems have more in common than you think…”

World Mental Health Day!

Mental health is just like physical health, everyone’s got it and everyone’s experience of it is different. For some, anxiety can occur in situations such as exams or job interviews and depression can occasionally visit for a number of reasons. And most of the time when the trigger is removed, life continues as normal with the occasional hiccup along the way. However, for some people, their mental health can be extremely difficult to handle and cope with, whether triggers are present or not. To the point where this becomes a constant occurrence and the severity is massively increased.

How many of us truly understand mental health conditions and are able to recognise them in ourselves and others? The answer sadly is ‘not many’. So how do we change this? By talking. Simple yet massively effective. Talking to one another and being open about our feelings is something that we could all do more of. You’ll be surprised by how much this actually makes a difference.

Continue reading “World Mental Health Day!”

How do I manage my anxiety?

I often get asked ‘how have you overcome your anxiety?’. And the answer is simple – I haven’t. And I probably never will. Mental health conditions tend to stay with us, they like long term relationships. But it doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be the same as it is now, it will get a bit easier to live with. Overtime I’ve noticed that I’ve begun to manage it better. There’s still a long way to go, but in general my situation seems to be improving.

So I guess the question really is ‘how do I manage my anxiety?’. And I’m still working out the answer, but I’ve found some ways along my journey that help me to manage it. I’ll list them below and hopefully one or two of them may be helpful for you too. And by all means, if you have suggestions for managing anxiety/depression, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

Continue reading “How do I manage my anxiety?”

Am I alone?

This is probably the hardest post I’ve written. I wrote this a few nights ago when I was struggling with my mental health – I still am in a way. I wrote it so that I could try and understand how I was feeling. But since then, I’ve read it back a few times and I think it could be beneficial for you too. It explains exactly what I was thinking when I essentially had an anxiety attack and it also has words of encouragement at the end which applies to every single one of you. So I hope that making myself vulnerable helps someone.

Continue reading “Am I alone?”

Self-care Darkspots style!

Recently I contacted Darkspots as I love what they do and knew that you would too. They run a monthly subscription service offering products, activities and tips to help you through your ‘dark spots’.

I often get asked, ‘what tips do you have for managing anxiety/depression?’. To which my answer usually includes keeping a self-care box. What is this? Well I’m glad you asked.  Continue reading “Self-care Darkspots style!”

Where has my blog been so far?

I created my blog in May 2017 and never would have dreamed that it would reach as far as it has already. Every time I look at the stats it amazes me. There’s still a lot of work to do – but I’m getting there with your help!

Attached is a picture of all of the countries (42 countries!) WordPress tells me the blog itself has reached (www.anxietydepressionandme.com). As of today, I’ve had 1303 visitors and 2845 views. My most popular post is ‘What I like about having anxiety and depression’ with 363 views.

I then conducted a quick survey as I was interested to see where my Instagram followers were from. The results were as follows:

  1. UK – 42.1%
  2. USA – 14%
  3. Australia – 12.3%
  4. Canada – 10.5%
  5. New Zealand – 5.3%
  6. Germany – 3.5%
  7. Argentina – 1.8%
  8. Austria – 1.8%
  9. Iceland – 1.8%
  10. Latvia – 1.8%
  11. Portugal – 1.8%
  12. The Netherlands – 1.8%
  13. United Arab Emirates – 1.8%

Thank you so much for your continued support. I couldn’t do this without you all!

 

My response to unhelpful comments posted on social media…

Recently I’ve seen content on social media which has concerned me. I’ve seen people warning a wide, public audience not to speak out about mental health. Obviously this concerns me as it’s pretty much against everything I’m trying to achieve with my blog and social media accounts. But it’s also very relatable for you too. From what I’ve gathered, the main reason behind it was to warn others of potential (and very rare) criticism from those who don’t necessarily respect mental health. That’s understandable and they probably mean well. However, I really don’t think that this is healthy advice. Here’s why:

A big part of recovery and stability within your mental health condition is acceptance. It’s not easy, but it’ll make you incredibly strong and will give you a big step forward in your road to recovery. Hearing other people’s mental health stories will only help you to accept your condition sooner.

After acceptance, the next step is talking about your mental health – others can’t help you if they don’t know what’s going on. And actually 9 times out of 10, when you tell someone you have a mental health condition, all you will receive is support and kindness. It may be difficult for them to know how to help and that is completely understandable. I mean it’s difficult for someone who has experienced something similar to help you in the best way that suits you; so for someone who hasn’t directly experienced a mental health condition, it’s very hard for them to know how to help even if they desperately want to support you. If you want advice on how to help others with a mental health condition, take a look at this – What can I do to help someone with anxiety and depression? 

Not only does talking about mental health help you to receive support, it also reduces the stigma and in turn you’ll help others. Yes, unfortunately there is still a stigma and there are always going to be people who refuse to understand and who will treat you negatively for it. But ultimately – are you going to let their opinion undo the huge progress you’ve made so far?

Speaking about your mental health not only helps you, it also helps others. You may be sitting there thinking that you could never make a difference to someone else’s life. But honestly, I guarantee that you will help at least one person through sharing your story.

Let’s make this relatable. Let me briefly explain my mental health journey.

So before I was diagnosed, I had obviously heard about mental health conditions; however, I didn’t actually know much about them. It seemed like the personal experiences of others just weren’t easily accessible. To begin with I felt like I was on my own and that no one else was in a similar situation to me (oh how wrong I was!). I didn’t know what the symptoms were or what to look out for. So for a long time, I didn’t actually know that I had a mental health condition – I wasn’t sure what was happening and every day just felt like a blur. This resulted in my anxiety and depression soon spiralling out of control. Eventually, I knew I needed to seek help and so I went to see my GP. What I didn’t do is tell my family or friends initially – I felt like I had to keep it a secret and that I would be judged (again this couldn’t be further from the truth – turns out there was no need for me to hide my diagnosis from others at all). As I started to talk about my story to others, the more and more support I received. And over time, as I was able to reach stability within my condition, I realised just how important talking about it was. I began to be approached by people who told me, ‘I’ve had a similar thing to you and I was scared to talk about it until now’ or ‘I think I may have anxiety, what should I do?’. A few people even told me that through hearing my story, they felt able to get a diagnosis and seek the help that they deserve. From here I became an active listener on 7 Cups of Tea. The main reason behind this was that there were many times where I would have loved someone to listen to me anonymously so that I could try to make sense of everything. So I decided to offer my time to listen to others. This helped a lot of people with worries spanning from daily tasks to suicidal thoughts. This is when I decided that starting a blog would be a good idea – if I’d already helped people by only slightly putting my story out there, imagine what could be possible if I was able to reach more people! I was apprehensive at first – I was worried no one would read my blog or that my condition would be disrespected. Thankfully, neither happened. I’ve managed to help other people and also connect with other mental health ambassadors.

I haven’t received any negative comments from my blog posts or social media pages so far – although I have received negative comments both directly and indirectly outside of the internet. However, that rarely occurs and the positives from sharing my story makes those negative comments seem inadequate. Don’t get me wrong, it really hurts when others don’t respect you and your mental health condition and I hope that you don’t have to experience that. But as difficult as it can be, it’s important to rise above their comments. You’re incredibly strong and you’ve achieved so much – always remember that.

So back to the comments which concerned me… I don’t think they meant to put unhelpful advice out there, but ultimately talking is one of the best things you can do. You don’t need to do much to reduce the stigma – not hiding your condition is a great way to help yourself and others. In terms of those who won’t understand, it truly breaks my heart that some people can be so cruel, but we’re human, it happens unfortunately. But that doesn’t mean that they should silence you. Keep sharing your story if you feel like you want to. It will help you accept your condition and will help others in return. Even if no one ever tells you directly that you have helped them, know that you have contributed to reducing the stigma and that’s a wonderful thing. One day I hope that a stigma won’t exist and that you wouldn’t have to worry about facing disrespectful and harsh comments – like I said, these comments are incredibly rare. At the moment they’re a small drop in the ocean compared to the positivity that shines through your stories.

Stay strong!

Why grief is my anxiety and depression’s best friend…

The last week or so has been incredibly demanding… this would usually trigger anxiety and depression (probably both of them at the same time – happy days). I’ve also had a very interrupted sleep schedule for at least a week… again this triggers warning bells for those with a mental health condition.

But somehow, this time it didn’t trigger anxiety or depression at all. As some of you are aware, I’ve been grieving due to the passing of my Grandad last week and my Nanny a couple of years previously. It’s like grief replaces mental health – almost as if it’s impossible to have both at the same time.

Grief has a very surreal and numbing effect to begin with. It’s like you know it’s going to be a really difficult time so you build yourself up to prepare for it, but then actually it’s not what you expected at all – even if you’ve experienced this feeling before. Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of the worst feelings you can ever feel and lasts for a long, long time – but your body and mind finds a way to cope with it one day at a time. And that coping mechanism is unique for each person.

For me, it just seems incredibly surreal at the moment. I’m constantly exhausted, lacking sleep and recently I’ve felt really faint. I thought I would be crying non-stop – I do cry, but I also get the strength to do things that I want to or need to do. I thought I’d need to avoid certain rooms in the house (my grandparents lived with us). But for the moment I feel really safe and comforted in their room (even though the room is completely empty and never used to be). I’ve found myself sitting in there quite often and finding lots of memories throughout the room. I think removing furniture or taking down photos would change that feeling, but for the moment I’ve enjoyed finding photos and keepsakes.

It would be completely normal for me to expect my mental health to have taken a hit in addition to my grief – yet it really hasn’t. In fact I’ve stopped taking my antidepressants. It’s like my anxiety and depression has disappeared for the time being. Always seek medical advice before you stop taking medication – I told my doctor that I was starting to feel more mentally stable six months ago and they recommended for me to stay on them until now. This was all planned in consultation with medical professionals.

I haven’t felt any of my normal symptoms of depression and anxiety since grief took over. Obviously I’ve felt really down and struggled to do normal daily activities, but this time that’s due to grief and not mental health. When i’m depressed, I want to stay in my room and hide. When i’ve been grieving, I want to get out of bed and do something – I don’t want to do much, but working on something I enjoy is more possible when I feel grief and shock in comparison to anxiety and depression.

Going to work again is difficult due to the shock of getting back into a normal routine. I took a couple of days off and left early on my first day back, but I managed it. I found it hard to concentrate at times and I enjoyed my breaks way more than usual – but it felt more manageable when compared to struggling with severe depression or anxiety.

You don’t have to worry about people understanding either – they just do. They know you’ll be grieving and they look after you automatically. With anxiety and depression they can sometimes see that you’re not okay but you usually have to tell them what’s wrong as ultimately people can’t know what you’re feeling or thinking. But grief is different. They can sympathise, usually empathise as well and know just what to do to help.

Grief seems to have replaced my mental health – well… for the time being anyway. It’s not the ideal replacement but with grief your body kind of goes into survival mode, with mental health it can be the opposite. Your body and mind only let you deal with what you can currently cope with when you’re grieving and in shock.

Don’t get me wrong, grief is far from ideal. I really, really wish I wasn’t grieving. But for the meantime it seems to be a coping mechanism. And it’s pushed the negative aspects of my mental health conditions out of the way. Almost as if grief has told my mental health conditions that I can’t deal with it right now and it needs to jog on. Grief seems to be more kind with my emotions in comparison. It takes things steady day by day, it allows other people to understand and it only gives you what you can handle.

I guess I can picture it as grief giving my mental health conditions a break – which is why I’ve drawn two bears (representing grief and my mental health conditions) giving each other a hug. It’s like they’ve come up with a plan – my anxiety and depression is now more understanding and will make it easier for me to cope each day.