Disconnect to reconnect: taking a break from social media, what I learned + my tips

Several weeks ago, I made the decision to take a break from social media. It was a very difficult decision for me to make, but it has been very healing and eye-opening. I first felt the intuitive pull to take a social media break months and months ago, but I didn't want to follow through with it because I was afraid of letting my followers, my community, down. I was afraid of being judged for stepping away and worst of all, I was afraid of rejection. So I kept pushing, kept posting, kept showing up even though I was tired, uninspired and honestly, a shell of my true self.

I didn't even realize how much of a shell I had become because it was a slow progression that happened over several months. In fact, I was depressed. I didn't realize how deeply depressed I was until I gave myself the gift of disconnecting from social media. Without the distractions, there was no more running. All I could do was be with me, fully and completely.

Now that I've been off of social media for a few weeks, I have realized so much about myself that I wasn't seeing before. I had allowed social media to become a way of numbing out, avoiding what I really needed for my heart, soul and body to heal. Social media had become an addiction that was spinning out of control and pulling me further and further into the depths of depression.

Let me just say here that I am well aware of all the good that social media does for us. We can connect with people we may have never been able to connect with otherwise. We can reach people all over the world to offer support and share information. We can create incredible communities and form deep friendships that wouldn't have been possible without social media. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube...each of these outlets has brought so much light and love to my life and many others' lives and I'm very grateful for them.

But...social media also has it's dark side.

There have been countless studies linking social media platforms with depression and anxiety, not only for teens, but also for adults. There is even a term for social media-based depression–"Facebook depression." (I have included some articles and studies at the end of this post if you are interested in reading more about this topic.)

After losing my soulmate, my dog, Megan, then losing my grandmother a month later, my mom's friend out of the blue and a friend of mine, I thought I had a pretty good handle on things. But when I stepped back and took a close look at how I felt beneath the surface, I knew that wasn't the case. I was sleeping 10-12 hours a night and somehow still felt tired. I wasn't practicing yoga and meditation hardly ever, if at all. I felt angry and irritated most of the time. I was crying almost every day. I thought it was part of the grieving process. I thought I was doing just fine considering everything that had transpired over the past 6 months. But when I finally made the jump to break away from social media, it was then that I realized I wasn't fine. It was when I stopped distracting myself, showing up for other people through posts, comments and videos, that I realized I was depressed. I hadn't been that deeply depressed in years, which is probably how it snuck up on me the way it did, combined with the distraction of social media.

Fast forward to today: it has been almost 3 weeks since I've posted on Instagram and I finally feel like myself again. I'm filled with excitement and I'm ready to share my life and business with my community again. I feel re-inspired, re-invigorated and, most importantly, happy. I definitely wouldn't have been able to say these things about myself just 3 weeks ago. I was empty. Lost. I didn't like how I felt. I didn't like myself very much. But listening to my intuition, taking some time away from social media and replacing the time I spent mindlessly scrolling with self-care, in-person connections, new experiences and yes, even sleep, completely transformed me.

There are also certain foods, herbs and supplements I focused on as well to help me heal the depression I was feeling. Stay tuned for a blog post specifically focused on all of that.

If this resonates with you on any level and you want to break away from social media to reconnect with your true self, here are 4 steps to help you!

Steps to take an intuitive social media break:

  1. Become aware of the role social media plays in your life: Take stock of how you feel when you use social media. Do you feel better or worse compared to before you went on? Also notice when you grab your phone or hop on the computer and start scrolling or posting. Is it always at a certain time of the day or when you are feeling a certain way (i.e. when you are bored or lonely)? A big aha for me was noticing the pressure I was putting on myself to post and obsessing about the number of likes, comments or views each post received. I realized I was basing my self-worth on how many followers I had or didn't have, how many likes or comments there were on each post. What once was fun, had become a chore. Notice if using social media feels fun, light and expansive or exhausting, negative and heavy. Just notice.

  2. Tune inwards + discover what you truly need: Each and every person on this earth is unique, so that means everyone's needs are unique. Take the time to get quiet, ask yourself what it is you need to feel your best and listen for the answers. There is no right or wrong here. What matters is finding what works for you. If you are reading this post, most likely it's a sign that a social media break is what you may need right now, but what does that mean in the context of your life? For me, a social media break meant no posting on Instagram, no scrolling for hours on end on Instagram and Facebook and no videos (stories, lives). I did check messages a few times and posted in a few FB groups about my yoga classes, but that was it. I would respond to a message or two, post in a group and then log off. What was important for me to do during this break was to focus on myself and what I needed to heal–nourishing foods, play, rest, creative expression (writing, drawing, coloring, exercise) and in-person connections. I never would have realized these were the things I needed to heal at a soul level if I hadn't taken the time to tune in and ask myself what I needed. Awareness is always the first step, but reflecting on what you become aware of and what you need is a crucial step that many people tend to skip over. So please don't skip this part!

  3. Take the leap: The quote "feel the fear and do it anyway" applies so perfectly here. All the fears that I had about rejection, being judged and letting my community down (among many others), kept me stuck month after month. Once I reached a point where I couldn't keep pushing myself any longer, the fears I had didn't matter as much and I was finally able to take the leap. My hope for sharing this experience with you is that you can avoid reaching that same breaking point I did, but in case you do, know that it's ok. We are human after all! We screw up. It doesn't matter if you veer off the path, what matters is how quickly you get back onto it. Forgive yourself and keep going. Trust your intuition and take that leap to do what you fear most. Whatever is coming up for you–how you are feeling emotionally and physically, what's showing up in your relationships or career, signs, messages–it's all coming up for a reason. Take action, make a change and have faith that everything will work out, maybe even better than you expected.

  4. Honor yourself every step of the way: When I finally decided to take a break from social media, I had no idea how long the break was going to be. All I knew was that I didn't feel like myself and it wasn't going to be until I felt reunited with my true self, filled with light, joy and the passion to share with others, that I would come back from the break. The first week, I completely disconnected. I wasn't posting or checking messages. I was completely off the social grid. It was what I needed to do in order to heal. The second week, I signed on a few times to check my messages and post about my classes, but that was it. It wasn't until the third week that I started to miss connecting with my Instagram and Facebook community. This is how I know I am ready to come back. (Notice how I used the first three steps to determine the end of my social media break–awareness, tuning inwards, taking action) I am planning on taking a few more days to reflect on everything I've learned the past few weeks so I can protect myself energetically moving forward and also hone in on aligning with my truth, my values and my purpose. I want to be able to share more authentically and vulnerably without worrying how professional I look or don't look, without fearing that people will unfollow me and without basing my self-worth on the amount of likes or comments each post gets. So I encourage you to recognize your needs and what will help you feel supported every day, every week, every month, every year, and follow through with it. Readjust as you do if you need to. This step is about taking into account everything you have done and checking in with yourself along the way. Remember, every day, every hour is different. You may feel a certain way today, then tomorrow, completely the opposite! Honoring yourself is about meeting yourself where you are every moment of every day.

As I make my way back to social media over the next few days, I feel so clear about what I need to feel safe and supported, about how to move forward in a way that is helpful and healing for me so that I can continue to help others, because I've taken the time to go through these steps. Following these steps is so important, not only for helping navigate a social media detox, but also for navigating L I F E. (Yep, I went there)

Awareness, tuning inwards, taking action, honoring where you are–these are all tools I've learned over the years to help guide me through some really difficult times. I hope that these tools are as helpful for you as they have been for me, whether you decide to step away from social media for a bit or not. If you know someone who could benefit from this information, please share it with them :)

Love + light,

Ashley

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/#1b6d8a852e5a

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563216307543

https://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.pn.2017.1b16

https://www.rand.org/blog/2018/02/does-social-media-depression-in-young-people-really.html

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