Category: Anxiety

Think Before you Post: Managing Anxiety in the Era of Social Media

By Rebecca Holczer, MA

As a member of many Facebook groups (perhaps too many?) I see almost every day how group conversations over social media can easily get out of hand. All group discussions start with an original post, however, it seems more common than not for discussions to go in all sorts of directions that are rarely relevant to the initial post. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, but the most compelling is that social media posting tends to be so fast and impulsive, that it is often more emotional than rational. In other words: Social media communications tend to be less about what we truly want to say, and more about what we want to convey in the moment. The problem with this (aside from miscommunications) is that the more people just give into our emotions, the more they tend to be prone to anxiety. Here are six tips we can use to manage anxiety when participating in group discussions in the era of social media:

  • Consider not responding at all: Yes, this is an option as well that we sometimes forget is available! But it’s often the best one. Of course, it’s fine to contribute to a group discussion if you want to share or to make an original post and initiate a discussion. But you don’t need to contribute or respond to everything.
  • Mindfully pay attention to your feelings: Before you post, think about how you are feeling and try to name that emotion. Some posts will make you feel angry, some may elicit feelings of sadness, and others will bring on anxiety. Being aware of your emotions and mindfully paying attention to them is a key strategy to making sure your feelings don’t get out of hand or take over. Consider it a challenge: Can you notice and name your gut reaction without giving in right away.
  • Adopt perspective-taking: Try to put yourself in the shoes of others who are posting messages for a few moments. Think about what their intentions were when they wrote their comments. Are you sure you’re understanding what they are trying to convey? Also, is their message written clearly (often it is not!) and do you need to clarify what they meant before responding?
  • Re-read before you reply: Relatedly, if you would like to make respond to a comment, take the time to read the comment you are responding to a second time. Group discussions can proceed at a rapid pace, and often people make errors when reading through comments. Don’t you just hate it when you post a response to a participant, only to realize seconds later that you misread their comments?
  • Role play in your mind: Before firing off a post, take 20 seconds to imagine how an in-person conversation might go with others in the group. What would you say if you were facing the group members in person? Research suggests that people feel much more free to express themselves in extreme ways when they are removed from a situation, or anonymous. But if you would not say something to someone’s face, do you really want to post it on the Internet?
  • Consider a direct message: When joining into an online conversation, we sometimes neglect the possibility of writing individual direct messages, instead of contributing to a group chat. Even if you ultimately do wish to post en masse, this alternative can be a good starting point to clarify ideas (yours and others) and help create more intentional and meaningful exchanges with others.

Social media has the potential to achieve what previous generations were unable to accomplish—we can now connect to others around the world with the mere touch of our fingertips. For that very reason, let’s make sure we actually connect with others without miscommunicating or getting stymied by our emotions in the process.


Mind’full’ Eating

By Talia Kaplan, PsyD

Mindfulness is the practice of living and being in the present. For people with anxiety, this is an especially important tool to use. It helps a person focus on what they are experiencing in the present moment rather than focus on everything that may happen in the future. While anxiety can make the world feel like a vast forest with unknown danger in every corner, mindfulness helps a person take one step and see whether there is danger on the single spot they occupy.

One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is through eating. We often eat so quickly or “mindlessly” that if anyone asked you what you ate five minutes ago you would be hard-pressed to answer.

We’ve all been there, it happens morning, afternoon and evening. In the morning you’re trying to get the kids out of the house while making sure you have your bag packed for work, so you take a bite of last night’s dessert as you’re running out the door and call it breakfast. During the afternoon you made sure to schedule a lunch break at work but you were called in for a last minute meeting so you try and scarf down your lunch in between your office and the conference room. Dinner may have started with the best intentions but you often find yourself watching the television as your bowl of soup disappears into your stomach.

So how do you eat mindfully? The answer lies in our five senses.

  1. Sight – look at the food you are eating. What do you notice about its appearance? Have you always noticed the bright colors of your fruit? What sticks out to you about the shape?
  2. Touch – What do you notice about the texture of your food? What does it feel like in your hand? What does it feel like in your mouth? Do you notice how the texture changes at different points in your mouth?
  3. Sound – As your chewing your food what sounds do you hear? Is there sound the food makes when you pick it up?
  4. Smell – Before putting the food in your mouth take a moment to smell it. What smells do you notice?
  5. Taste – Taste can be complex and different. Notice the various tastes you are experiencing. Channel your inner “foodie” as you pay attention to the hints of taste in your food.

Eating mindfully can help give a person an appreciation for the present in a way that they rarely experience. The powerful senses pull a person’s mind away from what MAY happen, to what IS happening right now.

While this may seem like a lot, it doesn’t have to be. A person can start out by just dedicating one minute of a meal to paying attention to their food. You may notice that a food you never liked actually has some very redeeming qualities. They may also notice that their favorite soda is actually too sweet for their taste. Either way, it can easily allow you to appreciate the moment you are living in, appreciate the food that is sustaining you, and slow down your life by just one bite.

The iPhone Setting That Could Save Your Mental Health

By Aliza Dinerstein, LMSW

With mental health awareness on the rise, many individuals are beginning to become more mindful of their internal experiences in day to day life, and the number of adults recognizing feelings of anxiety and depression has reached an all-time high. According to the National Institute of Mental Health 18.1% of the American population suffers from anxiety, and 6.7% of adults in the United States face depression. Even though these statistics are high, there is an even greater number of people with no formal diagnosis or professional treatment who are actually experiencing their own volumes of anxiety and depression every single day.

Multiple theories have been hypothesized as to why today’s society engenders such pathological responses to reality, some suggesting that the bombardment of social media, constant connection to technology, and a fast-paced culture are the antecedents that cause people to respond to life with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and/or depression. These theories may give us a glimpse into certain contributing factors, but no single explanation seems to be leading us directly toward a direct cure. Thus, the question must begin to shift from what has happened in the past to understand what is happening in the present; and from why we became a culture with so much anxiety and depression to how we will begin to fix it.

In psychology, there is a common understanding that thoughts, feelings, and actions make up an interrelated triad of human experience. This notion has led cognitive and behavioral therapists to treat psychological disorders by targeting one specific area, such as a series of thoughts or a pattern of behavior as a means of activating positive change in all other areas of the individual as well. One such technique used in behavioral therapy is called behavioral activation or self-activation and is a highly effective method of treating depression. Simply put, behavioral activation is based on the premise that in order to improve one’s mood and recover from depressive symptoms, one must take active steps, no matter how small, to slowly re-engage in his or her own life. The model of self-activation proposes that when one succeeds in activating or changing a small behavior that allows him to re-enter his own world in a meaningful way, eventually the rest of his thoughts and feelings will begin transforming as well.

So although the aforementioned theories about our present-day society cannot give us direct causational reasoning for the pervasive mental health challenges of today, they all have a very relevant commonality: a root that lies in the engagement with others and disengagement from the self. Perhaps our connection to media, ever-present technology, and our rapid culture is not the issue; rather the problem lies in our inability to turn off the externalities and re-engage with ourselves, even for a few moments a day.

In 2017, the idea of completely rendering one’s self-unavailable to the public for the sake of engaging in his or her own world seems nearly impossible. Rarely any pockets of time remain when it is socially acceptable to be completely offline and unresponsive to the barrage of social media, colleagues, and even friends. With internet connection on almost every street, aircraft, and even subway, there is no longer a feeling of sweet escape when boarding a plane or getting onto the train for work, knowing that when internet service disappears, there is every excuse to take a breath and shut off the outside world for a while.

This brings me to my favorite smartphone feature. Sometimes it only takes one button to trigger a pattern that will re-engage a person in his or her own life, and there’s an app for that. The tiny little switch on my iPhone labeled ‘airplane mode’ has been my ticket to self-activation (and perhaps sanity), every single day for the past two years.  It takes a lot of courage to tell the entire universe that you need some time to shut off their requests, opinions, and stresses in order to focus on the area of life that tends to become the most neglected: the self. The theory of self-activation states that it is disengagement from one’s life that perpetuates negative emotional states and the way to remedy these very feelings is to take the tiniest step towards deactivating the world around and reactivating the world within. The choice to deem one’s self-unavailable (even for 10 minutes at a time) may seem insignificant, but it could actually spark the chain reaction that may be the best therapy you’ve ever had.