Of course, setting a time limit is just one way to improve your relationship with your online feeds. If social media, in particular, is taking a toll on you—but you don’t want to disconnect from it completely—try these tips on how to make social media work for your needs.
Find a grounding activity that pulls you out of spiraling thoughts.
The news can catalyze a flurry of hard-to-deal-with emotions—you may feel overwhelmed, anxious, or powerless as national events (and the country’s collective reaction to them) continue to unfurl. All of this can impact how frequently you experience negative thoughts, so it’s good to have a plan in place to stop those emotions from escalating, Fry says.
That’s where grounding techniques—which are typically physical practices that can help you pull away from negative thought patterns—come in useful, she adds. Grounding techniques can help you relax when you aren’t able to talk yourself down from a heightened state of anxiety, SELF previously reported. And they can serve as an immediate reprieve when you’re really tempted to turn to substances like alcohol for temporary relief, Fry says.
There’s no one-size-fits-all grounding technique that can help everyone; rather, you’ll need to experiment to determine what helps you the most. “It really depends person-to-person on what’s going to be most effective,” Fry says.
If you’re looking for a place to start, she recommends trying a guided meditation during which you pay attention to your immediate surroundings, similar to the following 5-4-3-2-1 practice:
- Acknowledge five things you see in your environment.
- Touch four items in your environment.
- Listen for three distinct sounds.
- Acknowledge two distinct smells.
- Acknowledge something you taste (such as leftover coffee).
Other exercises that help ground people include journaling, taking a walk (ideally in an area with lots of greenery if you can), or doing another type of physical movement like stretching, Fry adds. SELF’s guide on grounding techniques can help walk you through more tips, from trying a new breathing exercise to progressive muscle relaxation.
Make time for things that bring you joy ASAP.
Before you pop a bottle of wine in the middle of a relentless news cycle, Dr. Hadland recommends pausing to ask yourself this question: “What are the positive things?” This doesn’t have to be an overly-complicated analysis, he says; instead, it can be a quick rundown of activities that typically leave you feeling happy—like practicing a favorite hobby—or just things you’re grateful for, such as the relationships you have with supportive friends or family members.
Drinking alcohol (or using other substances) to manage tough emotions can actually make feelings of anxiety or depression worse, Dr. Hadland says; though it might seem counterintuitive to disengage with a heartbreaking topic that the whole world is talking about, taking a few minutes out of your day to do something that makes you smile can help put things in perspective when your mental health feels precarious.
How to find help if you’re worried about your substance use
Gentle reminder: Drinking in moderation is defined as consuming one drink a day or less for people assigned female at birth, or two drinks a day or less for people assigned male at birth, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (One drink amounts to 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits like whiskey, vodka, and gin, depending on the alcohol content in each.)