Social Media and Teen Self-Esteem

Tweens and teens are spending more and more time on social media apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. According to Pew Research Center, 95% of adolescents report owning or having access to a smartphone, and almost 90% report they are online at least several times a day. Even as adults, we use social media as a means to stay connected with our friends, family, and we can’t forget celebrities like Jennifer Aniston– who broke Instagram when she joined! It is human nature to crave connection and inclusion. Teens, especially those part of marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ community, find comfort in connecting with others alike near and far via social media.

However, there are several downsides to social media use during adolescence. Think about how much your life as a teenager revolved around socializing. Were you invited to Amy’s party on Saturday? Did you sit with the “cool kids” at the lunch table? Social status and being included matters more than anything else at this very vulnerable age in life– when a lot of mental health concerns have their onset.

So let’s talk about the 3 main ways teen social media use impacts their mental wellness and how we can empower them to increase their self-esteem!

The Comparison Trap: The majority of social media posts are simply a highlight reel of our peer’s accomplishments and most exciting or stylish moments. Yet, this does not stop us from comparing our lives to that of everyone else’s. From fashion choices to appearances, it is so easy to fall into a pattern of negative self-talk when we are bombarded 24/7 with what everyone else wants us to see.

Focusing on Likes: Social media “likes” have quickly become the new popularity contest. This means that teens are equating their self-worth to how many likes they get on a selfie or followers they have. The desire to feel liked, attractive and worthy of love or attention causes teens to make choices such as using filters, altering their appearance, and even engaging in risky behaviors such as interacting with strangers. Not to mention the stress and anxiety that comes along with getting that perfect pose or selfie.

Face-to-Face Interaction: The more time that your teen spends on social media, the less time they will spend interacting with their peers face-to-face. Without this precious face-to-face time, teens are losing out on building vital social and communication skills that they will need to excel in college and beyond. Communication in person looks and feels a whole lot different than on the internet. Therefore, in order for them to feel their most confident in a variety of social situations, it is important for them to practice assertive communication skills on a regular basis.

Tips for helping to build self-esteem in teens and adolescents:

  • Limit and monitor their social media use.
  • Encourage them to follow inspiring accounts or role models not just influencers.
  • Make sure they set aside specific time to interact with peers in a face-to-face setting.
  • Get them involved in extracurricular activities such as theatre, art, or sports.
  • Set a good example! Put your own phone down and work on being more present.
  • Practice using daily positive affirmations with them to combat negative self-talk.
  • Focus on giving them positive praise on their personality traits and accomplishments versus appearance.

The take away? Your teen will follow in your footsteps. If you are constantly on your phone or comparing your life and appearance to others– so will they. They may resist these changes at first, but change takes time and consistency! If you are worried about your teen’s mental health and noticing a change in their mood or behavior, reach out to a professional for support. You do not have to deal with these concerns on your own.

  • Amanda Schofield is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher in Oviedo, Florida. She specializes in working with teens and young women with anxiety, stress, depression, life transitions and low self-esteem.

Managing Your Anxiety With Yoga & Mindfulness

Maybe it’s society’s always on the go mentality. Maybe it’s all the technology. Maybe it’s the political climate. No matter what the reason is, it seems like anxiety is becoming more and more of an issue every day for millions of Americans. In fact, according to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 40 million adults in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder making it the most common mental health concern in the country.

So what is an anxiety disorder? While we often use the term anxiety synonymously with stress, worry and nervousness, anxiety disorders are marked by the presence of intense fear and overwhelming distress that interferes with one’s daily life. Anxiety disorders can present themselves in various ways including phobias such as Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Many of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorders are physical in nature and may be confused with other physical health concerns. These physical symptoms of anxiety may include: increased heart rate, sweating, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, insomnia and digestive issues.

From a physiological perspective, anxiety is our mental and physical reaction to a perceived threat– otherwise known as our fight or flight response. When this happens our brain floods our nervous system with adrenalin and cortisol (the stress hormone) designed to help us respond to the real or imagined threat.

Typically, mental health professionals will recommend psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both to treat anxiety disorders. If you are looking for a more holistic approach, practicing yoga has also been shown to decrease the symptoms of anxiety. The combination of breathwork, poses and meditation are what make yoga such a wonderful tool for individuals looking to better manage their anxiety.

Breathwork— As many yogis know the practice of pranayama helps to connect the mind and body. We breathe in and out unconsciously all day everyday. Controlling our breath, however, takes focus and attention. Deerga Swasam or Complete Yogic Breath allows the body to take in up to 7 times more oxygen than normal. It is a three part breath that helps to calm the nervous system. This in return allows the mind and body to relax. Another pranayma practice known as Nadi Shodana or Alternate Nostil Breathing helps balance the nervous system and both hemispheres of the brain.

Yoga Poses— A variety of yoga poses better known to yogis as asanas have been identified that specifically help to alleviate anxiety symptoms. Balasana or Child’s Pose is a restorative and calming pose that releases tension in the back, neck and shoulders where oftentimes people hold a lot of their stress. Balancing postures such as Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3) and Trikonasana (Triangle) take one’s mind off negative thoughts and worry by placing focus on the physical body. Viparita Karani or Legs Up The Wall in addition to relieving anxiety symptoms, reduces low back pain, manages blood pressure, regulates blood circulation and improves sleep. Other poses that help relieve anxiety by enabling better blood circulation include Setu Bhandhasana (Bridge), Ustrasana (Camel) and Marjariasana (Cat).

Meditation— What better way to reduce anxiety than to focus on the present moment? Sometimes with anxiety, it can feel like your brain won’t shut off or that it is constantly on overdrive. So many thoughts, so little time and usually those thoughts center around worrying about the future. Meditation helps reduce anxiety by quieting the mind and bringing mindful awareness to the here and now. Whether you choose to focus solely on your breath, a mantra, or listen to a guided meditation, it is important to cultivate a daily practice. Think of meditation as an exercise for your mind. Just like you need physical exercise to keep your body healthy, meditation helps keep your mind healthy. And isn’t that the ultimate goal, a healthy mind and body?

If you are struggling with anxiety, remember that you are not alone. There are a variety of treatment approaches from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to yoga and mindfulness. It just may take time to find the right treatment method or therapist who is right for you.

  • Amanda Schofield is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher in Oviedo, Florida specializing in a variety of mental health concerns including anxiety and stress in children, adolescents and young adults.

Prioritizing Your Mental Health During The Holidays

Tis the season to be stressed. As if life wasn’t crazy enough, the holidays seem to creep up on us year after year. And if you are the least bit Type A, you know there is quite a bit of added pressure that goes in to the holiday season. Decorate your home, create picture perfect holiday cards, make sure your house is spotless before your family comes, cook a delicious meal, find the best gifts, wrap said gifts and of course find and decorate the perfect tree. The to do list goes on and on. On top of all this, we spend a great deal more time with our friends and family at holiday parties and get togethers than we do throughout the rest of the year. So how does one check everything off their list and prioritize their mental health during such a chaotic time? The key is boundaries. Which may sound simple, but really isn’t.

Be more self-aware. What is self-awarness you ask? A simple Google search tells us that self-awareness is “the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires”. A great way to become more self-aware of your feelings is by listening to your body. Do a quick body scan from head to toe and try to listen to what your body is telling you. Is there any tension? How is your stomach feeling? What is your heart rate like? Your breath? Our body typically tries to send us messages about our emotions– whether we are anxious, excited, angry, or depressed. Now that you are more in tune with how you are feeling, you are also more equipped to identify strategies for managing your mood. For example, maybe if you realize you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it is time to take a break from all the holiday shopping you are on a mission to finish. I promise there will be another sale tomorrow.

Set healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries especially with friends and family can cause a great deal of guilt. We often would rather wear ourselves too thin than to tell our neighbor Sally we can not make her annual White Elephant Party this year. We feel guilty for letting people down at the expense of our own physical and mental wellness. A few tips for setting boundaries this holiday season include knowing your boundaries, planning ahead, and being respectful but assertive. Take a minute to think about what you value. Do you value quiet nights at home with your SO? Make sure to keep a few nights open in the month to get that quality alone time in. Maybe you value a lot of family time with your kids. Then it is important to set boundaries at work to make sure you have adequate time to do all the fun, holiday traditions with them this season. Knowing your values and boundaries will hopefully make saying “no” to that neighbor’s holiday party invite a lot easier.

Incorporate Self-Care. This will not be possible without the aforementioned boundary setting. Take a look at your calendar right now. Where can you fit in even 5 minutes for yourself? Self-care does not have to be time consuming or expensive. It can be as simple as doing a 5 minute meditation in your car before work or taking a bubble bath instead of a shower, painting your nails, savoring your morning coffee, or reading your favorite book 30 minutes before bed. Whatever you do, add it to your calendar. Set aside specific you time and do not cancel on yourself. Hey, if the Grinch can set aside dinner with himself at 6:30 and refuse to cancel– so can you!

It is important to remember, all of these strategies like anything in life, take time and practice. Maybe this season has already gotten off to a stressful start, but it is not too late to try something new this year. Don’t wait until the new year to prioritize your mental health!

  • Amanda Schofield is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher in Oviedo, Florida specializing in a variety of mental health concerns including anxiety and stress in children, adolescents and adults.