How one woman realized she need time away from her social media feeds, and what to do if you need a hiatus, too.
One day last summer, I realized I needed a break. Not from a busy work schedule or family commitments—but from my Twitter feed. I would often grab my phone while I was still in bed to scroll through the morning's updates. Before I knew it, 20 minutes would pass and that lovely sleepy feeling would be replaced by the lives and news of the people in my timeline, some of it upsetting. I'd be off-centre before the day even really started.
This isn't the first time social media has got to me.
Four years ago, I quit Facebook. Between comparing myself to others and dealing with political rants I disagreed with, I felt crummy every time I was on the site. When I logged o for the last time, I turned to Twitter; I really enjoyed the short snippets of news and the interesting conversation the platform fostered. But when it started making me feel like Facebook did—gloomy—I knew I had to log off.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like have become xtures in our media landscape, changing the way we communicate. Mostly, this is a good thing; it makes it easier to meet intelligent and diverse people and to keep in touch with world-changing social movements. But its ubiquity can be overwhelming. Research is starting to show what many of us have already noticed: a link between social media and our mental health.
Pioneering research published earlier this year in the journal Depression and Anxiety looked at the relationship between depression and using one or all of the most popular social media platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn. Researchers found that "any level of social media use was associated with an increase in the risk of depression," says the study's senior author, Dr. Brian Primack, director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Primack, also assistant vice-chancellor for research on health and society at the university, notes that the study didn't look at causality; in other words, the question of whether increased social media usage causes depression or vice versa still needs examination. "It's very plausible that it could be a little bit of both," he says.
For most people, however, spending too much time on social media is less about a formal diagnosis and more about a general sense of well-being. A 2014 University of Michigan study about social media breaks (specifically, those who gave up Twitter for Lent) found that "three concerns surfaced with respect to social media use: spending too much time on it, trade-o s of not spending time elsewhere, and a concern about social media not being ‘real life.' "
I knew it was time for a break because Twitter had lost its vibrancy; there was too much scrolling and not enough engagement with what I was reading. Patricia Pike, an addiction and intervention specialist with private practices in both both Vancouver and the San Francisco Bay Area, says that's an important indicator. She advises asking yourself these questions: Are you neglecting interactions with loved ones? Are you distracted and unable to complete day-to-day tasks? Are you living for your next social media hit? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it might be time to rethink your relationship with social media.
I wasn't planning to leave Twitter for good—I don't think that's possible, or even preferable, in today's connected world. Instead, I decided to take a month off. I deleted the app from my phone, logged out of my account on my laptop and prepared to white-knuckle it through the next four weeks. But it turned out to be surprisingly easy. For the first week, I was constantly reaching for my phone, used to scrolling through my feed on a work break or while wait- ing in line. But then, the desire to log on died down and, perhaps stereotypically, I began to feel more peaceful and focused. I started filling my newfound pockets of time with other interests: reading, knitting and suing my phone to call friends and family (gasp!). When my month was up, I cautiously reentered the fray, but I found I didn't feel the old urge to check in constantly.
The break allowed me to do what Dr. Primack recommends: "Learn what patterns of use are more problematic and what patterns are more beneficial." I realized some social media platforms just aren't for me. (No to Facebook, some- times to Twitter and yes to Instagram; I mostly follow knitters, so it has always felt like an oasis.) And now I know I don't have to be "on" all the time to enjoy the boons of social media; these days, my Twitter usage is much more measured.
It's clear that social media—and our increased Internet usage, in general— plays an ever-growing role in our mental health. But temporarily unplugging is a valid form of self-care, a way to minimize overstimulation and hit the reset button. Give me a break, indeed.
5 steps to a successful social media detox
1. Have a plan. Decide how long your break will be, but resist the temptation to make it permanent. "Shutting social media out of your life completely is a great way to set up failure to control your social media needs," says addiction expert Patricia Pike.
2. Write down your reasons. Think about what you want to achieve this break. Is it figuring out which platform works best for you? Or do you feel overstimualted?
3. Use technology to your advantage. Delete the social media platforms you want to avoid from your phone. (If they're not there, you can't mindlessly click on them.) And on your desktop, use time-management apps like Anti-Social or SelfControl to block sites you want to avoid for a period of time.
4. Enlist help. If you think you'll be tempted to long on prematurely, have a partner or a trusted friend change your password for the duration of your detox.
5. Set limits. When you return to social media, put limits on your usage, says Pike. And give yourself a schedule, says Dr. Brian Primack, director of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health. For example, restrict logging on to your coffee break, instead of intermittently all day long.
Anti aging cream Credits: Getty Images
Navigating the world of anti-aging products can be daunting. Find out which skin superstars our experts deem worthy of adding to your beauty arsenal.
What: The number one dermatologist-approved must-do: sunscreen! A broad-spectrum sunscreen protects skin from UVA (the aging rays) and UVB (the burning rays), sun rays that can lead to skin cancer and skin damage.
Why: “Ninety percent of aging comes from photo damage (a result of sun-exposed skin), therefore sunscreen is the best way to prevent aging and sun damage. Don’t even look outside at the weather. Just put it on,” insists dermatologist Dr. Julia Carroll. Dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett agrees, and emphasizes the importance of using sunscreen every single day, no matter the season. Just hopping into the car or working in an office? “The sun can penetrate through windows, too,” she advises.
How: Look for sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply it in the morning before your moisturizer or choose a moisturizer with built-in sunscreen. Don’t forget to apply it to the neck, chest and back of hands. For a fuss-free option, look for a clear sunblock spray that’s alcohol-based and dry to the touch.
What: Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and its biggest job is to promote collagen production, helping to increase skin turnover while removing dead cells.
Why: It acts as a light peel. In the short term, dull-looking skin will be replaced with a healthy glow.
How: Choose a 1% retinol–based serum, which your skin will absorb better than a cream, suggests Dr. Kellett. It will tingle and can be a little irritating, so use it at night and when you’re out of the sun. Apply it after you’ve washed your face and before you apply moisturizer, or add a drop or two (depending on the season and your skin’s sensitivity) to your favourite moisturizer. This step will help more sensitive skin tolerate the retinol.
3. Vitamin C
What: It is a powerful topical antioxidant, helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and prevent photo aging and photo damage. Specifically, look for L-ascorbic acid, one form of vitamin C.
Why: It helps fight sun damage. Vitamin C mops up the free radicals (molecules in the skin that cause damage) that can lead to photo aging (aging from the sun).
How: Depending on your skin type, look for products that contain up to 20% Vitamin C, suggests Dr. Kellett. Incorporate it into your morning routine and follow with sunscreen. “Sunscreen and vitamins C and E are great partners, working well together to create a super combo,” says Dr. Carroll.
What: “Found in red wine, specifically in the skin of its grapes, resveratrol is an antioxidant with a bit of a sexy history,” says Dr. Carroll. Plants produce resveratrol as a response to injury.
Why: It works to repair skin damage caused by the sun. It also helps increase skin firmness, elasticity and radiance.
How: Use it at night. It will work to repair the skin while you sleep. Apply it to a cleansed face. It can be used in combination with retinol.
Over 50 and fabulous? Our guide to aging gracefully helps you choose the skincare, hair and makeup products that are right for you.
Winter is coming—and with it comes dry, cracked skin that needs an extra dose of hydration. Try one of these body lotions for a little relief.
We all know that moisturizing is key if you want to make sure your skin is hydrated all winter long. But not all body lotions are created equal. Here are six products that will keep your skin soft, smooth and flake-free as the weather gets cooler.
Rocky Mountain Soap Co.
For a portable option, look no further than Rocky Mountain Soap Co. This body butter is packaged like deodorant, making it easy to apply and even easier to travel with. It’s also 100% organic and made by a Canadian company.
Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Unscented Body Butter, $14.50, rockmountainsoap.com.
Lotus Aroma’s Velvet Body Lotion is great for sensitive skin. Essential oils and botanical extracts pair with shea butter, sea buckthorn oil and moringa for a non-greasy cream that maintains hydration.
Lotus Aroma Velvet Body Lotion, $18, yesswellness.com.
This moisturizer is thick and creamy—and though you have to work it into your skin a little bit, it’s well worth the effort. Coffee seed extract, pomegranate, green tea and shea and cocoa butters work hard to keep your skin smooth and hydrated. Bonus: When I used this product it even helped tone down redness.
Frank Body Cream, $22, frankbody.com.
The Ultra Rich Body Butter by Skinfix is specially formulated for those with chronic dry skin. If you have flaking, dry and rough skin you need a product that will help to heal the skin barrier. Shea butter and coconut oil form the deeply nourishing base that helps to lock in moisture—and offers you some sweet relief from dry skin.
Skinfix Ultra Rich Body Butter, $18, skinfixinc.com.
You don’t have to spend a lot to keep your skin soft and smooth. Try Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Lotion to keep your skin moisturized.
Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Unscented Lotion, $7, well.ca.
Kiehl’s Crème de Corps is a cult favourite. Rich, non-greasy and super hydrating, this lotion is formulated with cocoa butter and beta-carotene for a hefty dose of lubrication and vitamin A.
Kiehl’s Crème de Corps, $38, kiehls.ca.
Warm up to a steaming, fragrant bowl of slow-simmered stew within minutes of stepping through your front door thanks to these five slow cooker stews.
Tangy stuffed olives, fragrant fennel and an herbaceous topping brighten the flavours of this easy chicken stew. Serve over basmati rice to soak up the savoury sauce.
Pancetta, like bacon, is made from cured pork belly. The difference between the two is that pancetta is not generally smoked, giving it a stronger pork flavour. Use thicker pancetta—you can often buy it prechopped—for this stew rather than the thinly sliced variety.
This richly spiced chicken stew has just a touch of sweetness from dried apricots and honey, resulting in a perfectly balanced dish that requires little effort to prepare.
Switch up your usual beef stew with this Asian-inspired version. Five-spice powder, which is an intensely flavourful blend of Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cloves, cinnamon and fennel, lends the stew a mix of warm, sweet and savoury notes.
Cooking molasses boasts a more robust and less sweet taste than the fancy variety, which gives this hearty stew a rich, full-bodied flavour. Whisking in a bit of flour at the end thickens the sauce, making this the ultimate satisfying stick-to-your-ribs meal.