Stress is a worldwide problem. According to global stress statistics published by the Employee Assistance Program, the workplace is one of the biggest stress contributors with emotional responses like depression and anxiety increasing by 74 percent between 2012 and 2014.
Stress is such a common issue, that it’s on the brink of an epidemic. It creates mental illnesses, which result in health problems and even premature death.
“Mental illness is on the rise. Suicide is on the rise,” says Judith Weissman, a research manager at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. “And access to care for the mentally ill is getting worse.”
Although there’s no apparent cure, there’s plenty of research to help pinpoint the major causes of stress and develop solutions to alleviate it.
Lately, a huge focus on stress has been the impact of social media. Spending an afternoon on Facebook or Twitter seems like a harmless activity, but it could actually be the reason your stress levels have recently increased.
Research on Stress and Social Media
Pew Research Centers recently performed a study to examine stress levels of those involved with social media. Their findings revealed that avid social media users are experiencing adverse consequences to spending so much time on social media.
However, according to the main author of the PEW study, Professor Keith Hampton of Rutgers University, social media isn’t necessarily the primary stress-inducing feature, but it is part of it.
“There is a complex relationship between social media use and stress,” Prof. Hampton says. “There is a great deal of speculation that social media users feel extra pressure to participate and keep up on social media, to avoid the ‘fear of missing out’ in activities that others share and that they feel anxious after viewing the successful images that friends project on Facebook.”
It’s the awareness of stressful events that has people so much more stressed. This is, of course, a direct correlation to social media as the means of publishing events.
Hampton labeled this phenomenon as “the cost of caring.” People care about their friends and family members to the point where negative things shared on social media increase stress and anxiety for the observer.
It’s hard to ignore the fact that a family or friend is going through financial difficulties or that their loved one is terminally ill. The negative emotional response that this elicits takes its toll, and it might inadvertently cause your stress levels to rise.
The study also discussed how many Facebook users have been lashing out at the social site for bringing up painful memories. Users complained that this was a “thoughtless” feature that only succeeded in increasing stress for users.
He also points out the damages of comparisons, where people are often discontent with their own lives after seeing what’s on social media. Both factors are key findings to support the notion that women tend to experience higher stress levels than men.
Managing Social Media-Induced Stress
Those experiencing high stress levels can develop a number of mental and physical health issues, including chronic depression and heart disease. Thankfully, there are some proven ways to reduce stress levels.
Train the Algorithm
Most social media sites, Facebook in particular, have an algorithm to choose content that you like. If a topic you want to avoid comes up in your feed, you can ask the social site to hide it. You can also unfollow people and pages that are bringing you down and follow pages that lift you up!
Over time, the algorithm will pick up that you prefer more uplifting stories, and that will make up more of your newsfeed.
Take a Vacation
Vacations are scientifically proven to be some of the best stress relievers out there. Leave your phone at home and head to your vacation home or an all-inclusive resort where you can enjoy some rest and relaxation and get stress to a healthier level.
Limit Your Time Online
The less time you spend on social media, the more time you’ll spend in the realities of life. You’ll be able to focus on more positives and less negatives that social media often shows.
If it’s hard to say goodbye, consider deleting social apps from your phone or giving your passwords to someone else so you can only access the sites occasionally.
Social media is usually consumed indoors, which can contribute to stress levels. Humans need sunshine, fresh air, and nature to lessen stress. It’s easier to develop a more positive outlook when the birds are singing and the sun is shining.
Control Your Social Posts
Be careful about your own posting, as you could be a big part of the problem. Sometimes, typing out a negative experience can be therapeutic, but sharing it with the world often deepens the wound.
Stress levels and social media make up a complex issue, but it’s not one that must affect everyone. These scientific “cures” can turn negative social media influence into positive experiences.