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  • Writer's pictureBen R

I've got something to tell you!

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

It's coming, oh yes it's coming very soon! A break from the crazy world of social media.

I've been planning to do so for awhile and I will fully admit I'm over due, but I think I'm at a good point.

More on that in a bit, but first a life update.

Well, I turned 40 on the 10th of this month. I don't feel any different. Nothing out of the ordinary, so that's good. It was a low-key day. Spent it with family, which included my parents coming over for dinner. I got an acupuncture done, which helped with some lower back pain I had been dealing with at the time. If you've never tried it, I recommend. Basically, it's an Eastern medicine practice that utilizes tiny needles placed on parts of the body to increase blood flow and boost the immune system. I was introduced to it by my partner and have been using it for a few years now, primarily in the winter. I don't get too sick often and I've noticed that it helps lessen the severity of the common cold. To those with pain tolerance issues, it's not bad at all. Generally, you barely feel them go in. The most "painful", if you can really call it that, is in the ear lobe areas, because of less cartilage. Even then it feels like a mosquito bite.

Hazel, our puppy graduated from puppy class. It was an eye-opening experience for me, as I've never had a puppy as an adult. She was the best behaved and trained in the class. She's been wonderful to have as a new addition to the family! Despite that, she's still a puppy and with two other dogs, one who can't be around the other two, my partner and I were getting a bit burnt out. So I gave my partner an anniversary gift of having the two dogs (Lola and Hazel) be picked up by our groomer for a little more than a day trip. She thought that was the best gift ever. It was nice...and quiet! We literally didn't do anything.

I haven't cycled a whole lot this month, but am about to pick that back up. I got new tires on my bike, so I'm all set. The weather has been really muggy in the past week, so the desire to go out hasn't been there. It's suppose to cool down, starting tomorrow, so that will be perfect. In reality, I just needed a little break from that as well, as I've really missed the group riding this year. We have been getting Hazel out on a lot of evening walks this month. Trying to enjoy those as we have noticed the daylight becoming shorter and shorter in the evenings.

Speaking of evenings, I actually did my first social outing, if you want to call it, a little over a week ago. I attended a mask wearing, social distancing support group meeting. Our local NAMI has been doing them outside, weather permitting. It felt good being around others, new and old. I haven't been doing much as far as volunteering for NAMI lately. I believe I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had to decline an offer to work with a person as a volunteer peer support specialist. I still fill I'm not at capacity to help, as I want to be more present (wish literally) in this case, mentally than I am. I also had to turn down an opportunity to do an in-person story sharing to a community event outside. Not knowing how many people will be attending (scheduled for tonight) I just didn't feel safe, even with the requirement of mask wearing.

One positive thing my partner and I have officially planned is a return trip to Hawaii, Maui to be specific. Yay!! I'm excited, but it's not until June of next year. Nine plus months is a long ways off, but it's something to slowly think about over that time. Obviously, we are hopeful we will be able to travel by then, if not before. We had thought of February, but feel safer with June.

* If you're family reading this, please don't say anything to my parents. We plan on letting them know closer to Christmas. Haha - I feel like a little kid not wanting to tell my mom and dad that I broke something!

Other than that, it's been me trying to get my sleep and medicine cycle under control. I'm still not doing a very good job of it. Waking up one day at 6:30am to take Hazel out of her kennel to go to the bathroom and then eat and the next, not waking up until 10 or 11 is not helping my mental health. Since Covid started, I've not be good at getting up and going to bed routines. Then you compound that with probably a 33% usage rate of my Cpap and it's no wonder I'm all over the place. That was one advantage of my old job, it was fairly consistent to get up at the same time, at least during the week. I have been better about taking all my medication consistently lately, so there's a positive in there. I'm really trying to find the positives of each day, amongst the heavy feeling of all the negativity going on.

Before I get into talking about my upcoming "break", I do want to say I'm quite happy with how my first newsletter turned out. I had about 11 people participate in it, which is one of the main goals I had in mind. To me, the newsletters are about the contributions of others, whether they have an actual diagnosed mental health condition or not. I don't mind talking about my journey, but as I explain in the newsletter, I'm just one person with one condition of mental illness. I received a wonderful amount of different perspectives and have had people tell me how informative it was and that they could identify with parts.

Click here for the page to the Newsletters. If you like what you read, please subscribe (it's near the bottom) to get future ones!

Alright, so why take a social media break?

Well, lets face it, the news, in whatever form you ingest it, hasn't been too positive this year. Now with the political race heating up, I find it only getting worse. People are starting to "break off the hinges" so to speak. Everything, from mask wearing, racial injustice, fighting pedophilic websites, Covid, and of course political bantering. I've been very active on my Facebook and Instagram accounts over the past 5 months and I just need to give my head a mental-health break. I know I'm going to miss out on issues that I would be tempted to chime in about, but at the end of the day, my mental well-being HAS to be priority #1!

So, I'm going to be taking a brief sabbatical, two weeks off all social media. I will still engage in email 1-2 times daily, but will not be posting or engaging in any manner on the forementioned websites.

It's going to be a challenge I'm sure. Habits are difficult to break and I know my partner is questioning my ability to do so, which I totally understand.

So what am I going to do to keep myself busy during these two weeks?

  1. Read books. I have two books I want to delve into that talk about growing yourself as a leader. I also want to find a book that will be "just for fun" reading.

  2. As mentioned earlier, I will get back into cycling more. I've got a goal of 4000 miles for the year. I just recently passed the 3000 mark and I'd like to hit 4000 before, as they say in Minnesota, the "snow flies." With some dedication, I should be able to do so.

  3. Spend time with not only our dogs, but see my parents a little more. Personally, I have not felt good with the amount of time I've spent with them during Covid. They only live 1 mile away, but as you heard or read in previous blog posts, I've had some frustrations. Still, it's my job as an only child to be more present (while treading lightly) in their lives. My dad struggles a lot with having Alzheimers, so I don't want these more difficult years to be me not as present. I still have some "talks" I need to do with my mom, which will not be easy, but I have to keep trying. No one else will or can do it for me. Hopefully this won't be too much weight on my mental health. I know it's a bit of a risk!

  4. Also something I mentioned earlier, I will be using this time to get my wake up and sleep schedule in sync, hopefully.

  5. Try to make some meals. I'm not a good cook, but I've attempted in the past of make some meals. So I'm going to spend some time looking at recipes that we can eat as a family. Wish me luck!

  6. As far as a mental step action, obviously I want to stay in the present as much as possible. I want to continue to work toward being the best mental health advocate I can be, so "disappearing" is a necessity at times.

Below is part of an article on why a social media break is more important now than ever. I've posted the action steps of the article, but will post the link to the full article below it.

7 signs you need a social media break

“You don’t want to work too hard when you’re looking at social media, and unfortunately in the current situation, we’re all working too hard,” Turco says of the past few months. When experiencing anxiety, we should seek to slow down our nervous system rather than bombard it with more information via social media. But knowing that social media is having a negative effect on your well-being isn’t always obvious. Here are some warning signs of doomscrolling to look out for:

  1. Increased anxiety: If your anxiety is spiking or you feel mental fatigue or depressive symptoms, you may want to look at social media’s potential role in these changes.

  2. Loneliness and isolation: Social media and depression have been connected time and time again. Our social networks don’t take the place of real life social interactions like one might hope it would. It’s often a solitary endeavor, so you may notice yourself becoming more isolated and not connecting with others personally.

  3. Lost time: If you go into a bubble and lose track of time while using social media, it might be time to dial it back.

  4. Inconsistencies: Presenting yourself on social media platforms in a way that’s inconsistent with who you are or how you are feeling can be a sign that the use is not constructive.

  5. Insomnia: If you can’t get to sleep because it feels like your brain was working too hard, your sleep is disrupted or you have trouble falling asleep, it could be attributable to social media use.

  6. Distraction: If you feel a pervasive malaise or persistent distraction, you likely need to seek out real human interaction vs. social media interaction.

  7. Arguments: Getting into arguments on social media is likely a sign you’re too invested in the platform.

How to stop scrolling while still feeling connected 

Once you’ve recognized that you may need to decrease your social media intake, Estey recommends constructing some “speed bumps” into your digital life. Although social media can be a great way to connect with others, especially while we remain socially distanced, it’s best if it is not the only way, says Mouratidis.

  • Build social connection: Spend time with others outside of social media, whether it be a socially distant walk or a FaceTime chat.

  • Develop mindfulness: Opening up social media can become very reflexive. Practicing mindfulness via meditation or checking in with yourself before you open up a social network will bring more awareness to how often you’re using social media throughout the day.

  • Set goals: Aim to only use social media when it helps to advance your personal or professional goals or reduces your anxiety.

  • Disable notifications: Notifications are designed to keep us opening up the apps. Disabling notifications helps break your habits and reflectively opening up social media platforms.

  • Designate social media breaks: Use your smartphone’s features (like the iPhone Screen Time function) or a timer to limit the amount of time you spend on social media. Put your phone down at least an hour before you go to bed to allow your brain to wind down before falling asleep.

  • Consider the content: It helps not only to restrict the time but also to restrict the type of content you’re consuming. Consider a balanced selection that also includes apolitical areas that are soothing and create a sense of calm or humor. Rather than getting on your angry college roommate’s page or trolling an ex’s grid, check in with your cousin whom you haven’t seen in a while.

  • Add structure: Planning when you eat lunch or do your laundry—or scheduling time to watch a documentary or TV show—is very helpful in creating structure and preventing “dead time” that we feel we need to fill with social media.

  • Delete the apps: Delete social media from your phone but leave it on a device you use sparingly. This cuts down on reflexively opening apps while allowing some use in your life.

  • Use it for its intent: Focus your social media use on staying in touch with someone rather than engaging in a one-way dialogue of information intake, and you’ll feel more present.

  • Model good behavior: It’s crucial that parents model effective social media habits to their children. For example, having conversations with others as opposed to strictly interacting on social media platforms and not using technology while eating dinner with family members.

  • Limit your list: Unfriend acquaintances or unfollow accounts that you find triggering or that aren’t benefiting your mental health.

Ultimately, successful social media use comes down to enhancing rather than indulging, concludes Turco. “You can indulge in social media and get nothing out of it except lose a few hours of sleep and get irritated at your partner for no reason, or you can use it to meaningfully connect with people and enhance your life,” he says.

Click here for the full article.

In the meantime, I hope you apply some or all of these suggestions mentioned. I will be reporting back about my little social media detoxification when I come back online.

What can you do for me in the meantime?

  1. Check out the newsletter (it's also under the "More" section at the top of the website.

  2. Let me know if you'd like to contribute to next months newsletter. I will be calling for contributions upon my return. Nothing is "too bad or too dumb" to write, share a video, or draw about. I had a couple individuals that wanted to wait to see what was written before possibly contributing in the future and I had some that said what they wrote wasn't very good. Personally, I disagreed. As people, what looks worthless to one person may be exactly what someone else needs to read or see. As long as it isn't focused on personal attacks or in poor taste (use your own judgement there), I'm happy to include. Heck, if I get enough responses, I may just do a combined September/October newsletter.

Until then, take care of yourself and remember...

"You Are Not Alone. Together, We Are Stronger!"

- Ben

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