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Should you take a break from social media to look after your mental health?

The unspoken rules of social media can be challenging to keep up with.


Helen Flanagan
Coronation Street star Helen Flanagan recently took a few months away from social media (Ian West/PA)

People never regret taking social media breaks. Celebrities including Coronation Street star Helen Flanagan, who spent a couple of offline due to poor mental health, British actress Millie Bobby Brown, and American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, have all spoken about the mental health benefits that go hand-in-hand with leaving social media for a spell.


So what are the signs that it’s time to log off for a while – and what are the benefits of doing so? Health experts share everything you need to know…



Should people take a social media break?


Taking a break from social media is a good tactic to help protect mental health.


“Stepping away from devices is important for us all, but particularly for young people – as young brains are still developing, exposure to so much content on social media can be harmful and damage their future wellbeing,” said Fiona Yassin, psychotherapist, and founder and clinical director of The Wave Clinic.


“In addition to the mental health risks of social media, we are all (but again, young people especially) at risk from the negative aspects of the internet, such as cyberbullying, trolling and the dark web.”


What are the signs that it’s time to log off for a while?


It’s important to be self-reflective and honest about how social media is making you feel. There are many signs that it might be time to take a break from social media.


(Alamy/PA)

“These include, finding you often get annoyed or frustrated with people’s content, comparing yourself to others to the detriment of your health, reaching for your phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night, scrolling social media when you’re with other people, getting into arguments with people online, feeling deflated when you don’t receive the engagement you want on a post, and noticing social media is impacting your work,” Yassin said.


Many young adults and teenagers can feel huge amounts of anxiety due to social media. They may feel pressured to continually post perfect photos and write idealised posts to go alongside them.


“The unspoken rules of social media can be challenging to keep up with, and teenagers can experience high levels of anxiety as a result,” she added.


“Signs that your child or young person is struggling with social media include withdrawal and isolating from friends and family, being upset, disturbed sleep, major distress when you take social media away, significant mood changes, using self-insulting comments and comparing themselves to others.”


What is the best way to do it to ensure that it’s effective?


(Alamy/PA)

For Yassim, social media has an addictive quality. People revert to it again and again because it’s a constant source of instant gratification.


But Jas Schembri-Stothart, co-founder of the Luna wellbeing app, encourages people to take the following steps.


“Unfollow or mute accounts (influencers, brands and even friends or family) that provoke negative feelings and contribute to poor mental health; this way the only way you are coming across their content is if you actively search for it,” said Schembri-Stothart.


“Set personal boundaries, like time limits and guardrails around times of the day you want to use social media; reward yourself for sticking to them


“Remove comments and ‘like counts’ and mute notifications; silencing pop-ups and adjusting these settings will reduce the urge to keep refreshing your feed to check in on post updates


“Procure your feed (as much as possible); engage with accounts and content that adds value to your life and makes you feel good – social media can prove useful for finding hacks, creative ideas and learning new things.”


What are the benefits


(Alamy/PA)

Studies have shown that limiting social media use can improve wellbeing by preventing sleep problems.


“Many people who use social media experience a fear of missing out, which can drive social media use at night and cause sleep disturbances,” said Yassim.


“Social media can be very anxiety-inducing for some adults and young people. Stepping away from social media can help to reduce anxiety no matter what your age.”


It also prevents psychological distress. “Although social media has not yet been proven to cause depression, it is shown to intensify certain symptoms, such as social isolation and loneliness,” Yassim added.


“Breaking from social media and instead investing time connecting with friends, family and colleagues in real life, can help to reduce feelings of loneliness.


“Although it is yet to be established whether the relationship between social media use and health factors is a direct one, research has shown that reducing social media use, even by just 15 minutes a day, can significantly improve general health and immune function.”

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