As many individuals and families around the globe are “sheltering in place” either by choice or mandate, we find ourselves with more time than ever to connect via technology and social media. I’ve seen a number of screenshots of “virtual happy hours,” and posts about people reconnecting with long distance friends. It’s great to see modern solutions helping us to confront the challenges of isolation.

I’ve also noticed an increase in the mindless consumption of social media as a tether to the outside world. As we scroll through this content, we tend to be on “auto-pilot” — and perhaps are not aware of its impact. Imagine, for example, a picture of ICU workers in full protective gear, right next to a snapshot of a vacation that someone decided not to cancel, followed by a photo of Times Square eerily deserted at rush hour. These images are provocative; yet we continue scrolling without really noting what thoughts, feelings or reactions arise. We need to be aware of, and get out of, this “auto-pilot” mode and tune into what we are actually seeing. Here are some strategies to help:

1 – Be intentional. Pay attention to what times of day or situations tend to compel you to pick up your phone and check your feeds, rather than sending a message to a friend to set up a catch-up or virtual “hang out.” Start to recognize how you feel when you read each headline or post and view the reaction others have had to it. Do you find yourself thinking you strongly agree, or feel angered or frustrated, or frightened by the uncertainty? By paying attention to how you engage with online content, you can make better choices that support your social needs and emotional well being.

2 – Set boundaries for yourself. Smartphones have different features to help us monitor our use of these seemingly indispensable devices. Use a “screen time” app or other timers to limit the number of minutes per day you spend on social media; unfollow or mute online “friends” whose content is exacerbating your feelings of fear, frustration, or anger; create more time to engage purposefully with the people or communities that you find to be nurturing, helpful and supportive.

3 – Find meaningful online connections. This may also be a time to consider engaging in more intensive self-care. If you’ve been thinking about getting started with therapy, you can absolutely do so — even without leaving your home. The therapists at Peaceful Way Psychology are available to you 7 days a week via telehealth, meaning that we conduct therapy sessions through a secure video conference. With the unique stressors we all currently face, professional support can help you learn how to cope, find a sense of normalcy, and feel more in control. If you’re interested in checking out teletherapy, please email or call us to schedule a free consultation today. We are here for you in these challenging times.