Jen Eastwood, founder of Rock Rose Digital, explains how she keeps her 'social media sanity'.
To me, digital self care and my job go hand in hand. Looking after my mental health is as important as the work I do for my clients. It is as much my job to ensure I put the necessary boundaries in place and take care of myself as it is to ensure my invoices are paid on time. To see it as being any other way would be dangerous to both my mental health, and my business.
For the majority of my teen years and my adult life, I’ve experienced some form of mental health struggles. I’ve battled anxiety and depression, been on and off medication, experienced PTSD, and an overdose which led me to spend my only overnight admission to hospital. Earlier this year I battled with self harm and serious thoughts of not wanting to make it to my 30th birthday.
Now, I’m 30 and 4 months, with a thriving social media agency which I sent up in January, in the middle of my most serious bout of mental illness I’ve faced yet. It is my utmost prerogative to keep my mental health in good order for myself and my clients. I’ve worked too hard to get to where I am today to let things slip, through easily managed daily lifestyle adaptations.
I know firsthand, just how important this is. When “you’re riding the funk”, as I like to call it when I’m struggling with my mental health, it can be so easy to disappear down the social media rabbit hole. You withdraw from ‘real life’ social situations, seeking satisfaction and personal validation from the dopamine hit of likes and comments in this fantasy digital land. Notifications pinging all over the place, demanding our attention and actions. We end up becoming the slave, with our phone the master.
It can feel really overwhelming. Like a really needy friend, that won’t leave you alone. Everywhere you are, they pop up, demanding attention and zapping all your energy, and before you know it, your mum’s invited them to come on holiday with you and there’s no way out. But, with clever management, and being brutally honest with yourself, it’s easy to manage. You can keep the friend at arms length and still have space to be your own person, doing your own thing. It’s about setting those boundaries so it doesn’t get out of control. Sure, it’s tough. We’re used to that presence; but do you REALLY want that needy friend constantly hanging around?
By no means am I saying social media is the bad guy here. I’m a nerd, it’s what I do for a job so I’d never bad mouth it...I love it! But, like a lot of things, this amazing medium has been invented, we’ve seen how much it’s capable of and it’s become an integral part of our society. Now, companies and brands have become more greedy, developers have learnt how we can be manipulated by it, they’re purposely designing it to be addictive and now we’re in too deep. We didn’t stand a chance!
So what do we do? We’ve got to take a couple of steps back and reflect on HOW to make it work for us, and NOT the other way around. It’s honestly TERRIFYING how much time I have spent on social media. I used to make excuses and convince myself it’s for work; when in fact I was falling down ‘The Scroll Hole’, checking in on what a girl from school’s dog had for breakfast and I couldn't admit just how addicted I was. For me, it’s a telltale early warning sign my head is on the edge of a funk and I need to quickly take action before things spiral.
I’ll admit - I’m far from perfect. It still does get out of control sometimes. As a social media manager, running multiple accounts for a dozen different clients, there’s such a fine line and it could easily get out of hand, having detrimental effects on my health and business. I’ve had to be really strict with myself in setting up manageable boundaries and ensuring I’m giving myself the Scroll Free Time I need.
So, here are my top 5 tips for keeping my social media sanity:
- Turn off all notifications - seriously. If I can work in social media and have no notifications, you can too. The only ones I have are WhatsApp and calls. That’s it. It instantly stops your phone being that needy attention hungry monster and allows you to regain control.
- Delete all social media icons from the home screen - make it as difficult as possible for yourself to access your social media apps. I have mine hidden, in a group on the last page of my apps. It means you have to be FULLY conscious of the decision to go find them and not open them on autopilot.
- Set scroll times - set a timer on your phone for 10, 20, 30 minutes. You scroll to your heart’s content during that time. But when the alarm goes off, that’s it. Do this once or twice a day and be strict with yourself. It’s so easy to lose hours of your day absentmindely scrolling the never-ending reams of content. This is a really good way to snap you out of it and be more mindful of how much time you spend on it. You’ll be amazed how much time you have on your hands to do real life stuff!
- No phone in bed - It’s bad for your sleep pattern, bad for your brain, bad for your relationship. Your bed should be only for sleeping and ‘cuddling’. Get an alarm clock. Charge your phone in a different room at night. You’ll notice the difference to your sleep INSTANTLY.
- Make time for yourself in the morning - The first hour of your day should be just for you. Do what you need to do make your day a success. That means not giving your attention to your phone. No-one requires your attention, even on social media with pictures of their beautiful brunches, until you are ready. Once you pick up your phone, you’re in the notification fuelled, dopamine junkie cycle for the rest of the day and it’s impossible to break out.
If you want to know more, I run a ‘Digital First Aid’ course for schools, colleges, charities and other organisations which goes into more detail about the negative impact of social media on our mental health, offering really simple lifestyle changes that truly make a difference. For this, I’ve created a positive Instagram account, @wearestrongr, so if you’re desperate for a scroll at least it’s something uplifting and supportive to get lost in.