Mental Health Awareness week is over for another year, but it’s important that we don’t only have this at the forefront of our mind for one week a year. This needs to be something we consider on a regular basis. The topic this year was Be Kind, and this applies to ourselves as well as our actions towards others.
One way to Be Kind to ourselves is to consider our relationship with social media.
I find social media can be a real mix of helpfulness and negativity. Helpful because it reminds me of the friends I have, the jokes we share and is a good way to stay in touch, which is really positive for me. If I notice one of my friends having a hard time, then I can contact them and help. Conversely, friends have reached out and helped me at times through social media.
However, there can be negative side to it too, because it often shows only the positive side of other people’s lives and you use it to measure your own life!
Now more than ever, it can be both good and not so good.
I have (rightly or wrongly) made a conscious decision to interact less on social media just now – I use it to share recipes and funny animal videos, but I don’t use it to follow the news – it can be difficult to tell fact from fiction. I don’t use it to engage with debate on who is dealing with Covid-19 better or worse than another country and I try and stay away from too much coronavirus discussions. Some people say it makes them feel more upset, worried and depressed, and subsequently they have very negative thoughts. This made me think of the phrase `You are what you think` We know the power of thought can have a huge impact on our lives. Negative emotions prevent our brain from seeing the other options and choices around us.
In times of constant negative messaging, we need to be aware that negative thinking can magnify the negative aspects of a situation. That can mean during this time, that we cannot see a way out, we forget to try to appreciate our surroundings.
So, what can we practically do to help if everything is getting on top of you….
• Make use of social media to stay in touch with friends but acknowledge that people don’t share the mundane or difficult times so you are only seeing a snap shot of their life (and usually the good bit they want you to see).
• Try not to rely on social media to validate what you do and don’t measure your life by the number of likes you receive
• Recognise when you are in the spiral of negative thought
• Refocus your mind on something else – pick up an engaging novel to read, start a crossword or puzzle. It is important that it is an activity that engages your brain, keeps it active and doesn’t mean your thoughts can wander.
• Go for a walk or a run – and focus on your surroundings. Sometimes a walk or run lets your mind wander onto the negative thoughts, though that is usually short lived. As you exercise, endorphins are released which trigger a positive feeling.
Take care of yourselves. Don’t let mental health only be a consideration for one week a year. Look at the FECAVA on-line resources and reach out if you are in need of help.
Chair, FECAVA Mental Health & Wellbeing Working Group
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