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From the Inside

Taking Care of your Mind: A Quick Guide to Mental Wellbeing in Social Media

Estimated read time: 10 minutes

It’s time to welcome another new guest columnist to the pages of The Native! Our latest From the Insider contributor is the awesome Daniel Marrable from the University of Glasgow and he’s kicking off his residency with an important topic; mental wellbeing.

*If you’d like to be a future From the Inside columnist then please get in touch!*

It’s nothing new that spending too much time on social media directly affects your mood. Even Facebook has admitted that using its own platforms poses mental health risks.

Every single day as part of our jobs we log hours and hours on multiple channels, monitoring conversations, responding, posting, creating, etc. So how do we protect our minds from something that, when used in earnest, can have fairly detrimental consequences? I’m not here to dissect the validity of social media – as we know full well it’s not going anywhere – but instead I’d like to share some of things that I try to do to ensure I’m getting my mind right on a daily basis.

When you’re off, be off

Be strict on yourself. I have two phones, one for personal use and the other for work. When I’m off on a weekend or in the evening I try to turn my work phone off. My director and work colleagues know that if there is an emergency they can call my personal number, but most of the time things can wait until the morning. You might have all your work social channels on your personal phone, and if that’s the case, try your hardest to stay off of them when you’re at home. 

I also try to regiment my day, often forcing myself to take my lunch away from my desk – helps that on some days have to run home and let the dog outside. I also try my best to have all the tasks I’ve set for myself finished by the end of the working day in order to leave the office on time. If I still have work to do, unless it’s pressing, I’ll write what needs to be completed on a white board for the next day so I’m not thinking about it all night.

Headphones out

Choose a few times in the week on your daily commute where you take your headphones out to concentrate and focus on your surroundings. This is a sense check for your brain and helps you to be present and mindful. I try to do this at least twice a week, more often in the morning when I’m still fresh and try to soak up my the sights and sounds around me as much as possible before getting into the office.

Walk, run, swim… breath?

The reason we get addicted to social media is because our brain gets a little shot of dopamine (the chemical associated with love… and drugs) every time we are involved in an online interaction of any type, and we get a little high. This type of instant gratification fades as quickly as it arrives and we’re constantly checking our phones for a little fix. Even while writing this I have my phone close by, and in the back of my mind I’m thinking of just checking it quickly. 

** Picks up phone and moves it to other end of table **

You need to find another way to get that high and replenish those endorphins (legally… legally everyone). My preference is going for a swim because you’re forced to leave all tech on the side, minus the waterproof Fitbit of course, I’m not a savage! If swimming isn’t your thing, go for a walk or a run in the evening, or pick up a paint brush and do some art. Set it in your mind not to check your phone during these times and I promise you’ll enjoy the activity way more. Even setting your phone in another room while you’re having dinner can help.

Read something 

I think my worst habit is lying in bed at night and looking at my phone before I go to sleep. I’m not even doing anything important really, maybe a fail video on YouTube, scrolling through reddit, one last check on twitter. Studies have shown that screen time right before bed will mess up your sleeping pattern which has a drastic effect on your anxiety levels during the day. My suggestion to combat this is to find yourself a really good book, nothing too heavy, something entertaining that you will look forward to getting all comfy at night in bed and reading. Since I started doing this I’ve found I fall asleep a lot quicker and my wife says I also look all intelligent reading a book like a grown up. 

You could also charge your phone in an outlet on the other side of the room if that helps… but I don’t want to push it too far here, baby steps.

Make a weekly plan

Combat the Sunday Blues by writing out a little mini plan for the week of how you’re going to take care of your mind when you’re not at work. You are more likely to give something a good effort if you write it down instead of just having it swirling around in your head. It could be a reminder to read your book, or a goal that you’d like to accomplish that week, something attainable that when you complete, gives you a sense of accomplishment. Try a little sticky note on your bathroom mirror that you look at when you’re brushing your teeth, that way you can remind yourself of your plan for a couple minutes in the morning and at night.

Talk to someone

Some of us will still experience anxiety and depression, and no matter how much we turn off our phones, plan our weeks, run, swim, paint, or try to be mindful we still need something more. If you work for an organisation like a college or university, they are bound to have a health and wellbeing service and they are there for a reason. Take advantage of everything they have to offer, I know I have. Contacting the staff counselling line can be nerve racking and I know I was very apprehensive about it, but I’m glad I did. They can set you up to meet a therapist who can help you talk out the challenges you’re facing. If you’re going to go down this route it’s also essential that you make your GP aware of any difficulties you’re facing and, if they see fit, can prescribe you some medication that can help reduce anxiety too!

Seems like a lot… but it isn’t

I would be lying if I claimed to do all of these things all the time. I know I should, and I strive to, but sometimes it’s tough prioritising mental health and you lose focus. Be honest and open with your family and friends if you’re struggling too, you’d be surprised how many other people in our industry find it challenging to keep their minds in tip top shape and you can support each other.

Hope this little bit of advice helps, stay strong out there folks!

You can follow Daniel on Twitter and find him on LinkedIn

*If you’d like to be a future From the Inside columnist then please get in touch!*

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