Social media increasingly allows us to become more connected to our communities and to local, national and global events in real time. As we find ourselves with more immediate access to information and news, we also experience the tragedies and traumas of the world as they occur. Over the past few months, we have witnessed the Orlando mass shooting, targeting the LGBTQ community, the recurring incidents of black men in the U.S. being shot and killed by police, police being targeted in response to these shootings and on-going terrorist attacks and bombings around the world. All of this amidst an election campaign fomenting the not so subtle racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic sensibilities underlying our communities.
These experiences resonate with us differently. We are impacted as members of affected and targeted communities and as allies. We witness the tragedies live or played over and over online and on television. And we feel, shock, fear, anger, confusion and at times, powerless. Often, we may find ourselves glued to screens as events unfold, looking for reassurance that those responsible will be held accountable and that justice will be served. We look to our community leaders and government for this and we don’t always find it. In sessions with clients, I’ve been asked about how to manage the deluge of images, feelings and reactions. In other words how to balance social media and self care.
The impact of these tragedies can bring on symptoms similar to PTSD. We may notice reactions and responses emotionally, psychologically and physically. While we may or may not feel able to change the larger political and social issues our communities face, we can address how we engage with and cope with these experiences.
When confronted with trauma, the following 6 steps may help you to create more balance between your usage of social media and self-care –
1. Take a Break.
Take a break from social media when possible or set a time limit. Mindfully disconnect from your usual social media sites. Set a timer, go online at a certain time of day. Pay attention to symptoms of anxiety that may arise from content you engage with online. Check out our webinar on Understanding and Coping with Anxiety.
2. Consider Your Use.
Notice if going online is the first thing you do upon waking or the last thing you do before going to bed. Choosing to check social media first thing in the morning can set the tone for your day. Being on social media before bed can trigger anxiety thereby disrupting restful sleep.
3. Nourish Basic Needs.
Meeting your basic needs is paramount to self-care and wellness. Eat well and consistently. Stay hydrated. Get good rest. Breathe mindfully or meditate.
4. Reconnecting to Your Physical Self.
Find ways reconnect with your body and get out of your head. Go for a walk, a run or bike ride. Physical activity can provide an outlet for anxiety and distress, allowing you to get out of your head and connect to your physical self.
5. Connect with Community Support in Person.
Identify your supports. Reach out and spend time with people who are supportive and are empathetic.
6. Seek Support.
If you find yourself unable to cope, find an anxiety or trauma support group or therapist to assist you. Sometimes feelings of distress can surpass our existing coping strategies and professional support may be more helpful.
What are other ways that you’ve found helpful to cope with and manage traumatic or distressing media?
Glenn Zermeño, LCSW is a psychotherapist at myTherapyNYC who works with individuals and couples. If you would like to schedule a therapy appointment with Glenn, please click here.
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