How to calm negative feelings triggered by social media
Psychotherapist and founder of The Wave Clinic, Fiona Yassin, shares her tips to calm anxiety triggered by life in the tech age.
For teenagers and young adults, social media is ingrained into the fabric of everyday life.
In fact, research has shown nearly six in 10 teenagers count themselves as daily TikTok users and 16% say they use it “almost constantly”.
Concerns about social media’s impact on mental health are long standing and have only intensified in recent years.
In the clinical world, there are systems and processes in place to help young people deal with overwhelming and negative emotions. But in the environment of social media, where young people have access to an endless stream of, often, uncensored content, no such support exists.
Fiona Yassin, psychotherapist and founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic, explains how people can manage emotions and feelings triggered by social media, and shares an effective, anxiety reducing technique young people can practise.
USING GROUNDING TECHNIQUES TO MANAGE ANXIETY
Grounding techniques use tools such as visualisation and senses to help distract a person from a variety of feelings and thoughts and bring that person back in contact with the present moment.
‘Grounding techniques are helpful for young people to manage and work through emotions and sensations they wish they weren’t feeling,’ Fiona explains.
‘By using grounding techniques, we’re not saying that we will not deal with or process emotions and sensations. We’re saying that right now, at this moment, this is not going to intrude in what I’m doing.
‘It’s important young people are equipped with the tools they need to help them return to a safe space if they become activated or triggered by social media, or any other event in day-to-day life.’
THE LIGHT STREAM TECHNIQUE EXPLAINED
The Light Stream technique is an exercise that helps to ground feelings and bodily sensations. It’s a technique that can be used by anyone when they feel triggered and experience negative emotions and anxiety.
Fiona shares the step-by-step process of the Light Stream technique:
The first part of the light stream technique is to be mindful of what you are experiencing and feeling at that moment.
Ask yourself this question: What am I feeling right now, and where do I feel it in my body?
Then, imagine those feelings are an object. The goal is to take the first thing that comes to mind after recognising the emotions and location.
Ask yourself these questions about the object:
- If it had a shape, what shape would it be?
- If it had a size, what size would it be?
- If it had a colour, what colour would it be?
- If it had a temperature, what temperature would it be? Hot or cold?
- If it had a texture, what texture would it be?
- If it had a sound, what kind of sound would it make? High or low pitch?
Next, focus your attention on an imagery exercise.
Pick a colour you associate with healing. Now imagine a stream of light in that colour coming down from above and flowing in through the top of your head. Focus the light stream down on the object.
Let the light vibrate and resonate like a laser beam in and around this object.
The more light or energy that you need, the more is available to you. Allow yourself to feel the light enter your mind and allow the healing light to vibrate and resonate in and around the object. Notice what happens to the object.
When you notice the object is gone or it feels contained, allow yourself to let the energy from the light flow into your body. Allow it to reach the tips of your fingers and the tips of your toes.
Allow yourself to be engulfed and overwhelmed by the energy. Count to three and open your eyes.
You should notice the feelings of anxiety have subsided or have completely gone.
BUILD A TOOLBOX OF GROUNDING TECHNIQUES
As a rule, Fiona suggests everyone should have six grounding techniques in their toolbox.
‘There are lots of different grounding techniques people can use to manage being triggered or activated,’ Fiona says.
‘Walking can be really good to bring you back into the moment. When we walk, we are actually stimulating both sides of the brain in a process called Bilateral Stimulation (BLS), which can feel soothing for some.
‘Many people find repetitive activities, such as cross stitch or crochet, to be calming, whilst others find being in motion by sitting on a swing or rocking can help bring them into the present moment. Journaling or watching a good movie can also be effective grounding techniques.’
WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN TO BE TRIGGERED?
‘In the true sense of the word, being triggered means we are highly activated,’ explains Fiona. ‘It’s when our nervous system starts to become activated and our body and mind are on full alert.
‘On a cellular level, being triggered means we are activated in a way that takes us back to something that has happened before. It can be something we are conscious or unconscious of. In that moment, we may feel we are acting in a way that is out of proportion to the events happening around us.
‘For example, we may feel angry or sad over something that was actually quite small and are often unable to pull ourselves round from a moment in which we can’t quite work out. What’s happening is that we are overreacting to things we have experienced before. Certain sounds, sights, smells and feelings can trigger memories and sensations that are held from previous events.
‘Some people may experience flashbacks – particularly if they have unprocessed trauma – where we might begin to have thoughts that feel intrusive. As a consequence, we may start to avoid people, places and things that remind us of unpleasant memories, emotions, sensations and events from the past.
‘The word “triggered” has become a trendy and somewhat overused word and is not always used in the right context. You may hear people say: “you’re triggering me”; what they really mean is something different. For example, they may use the phrase to put a full stop to a conversation.’
ABOUT THE WAVE CLINIC
The Wave Clinic is a specialist in trauma treatment, eating disorders, mental health and addiction treatment for teenagers, young adults and families.
Fiona is the clinic’s founder and Clinical Director. She is a UK and International registered Psychotherapist and accredited Clinical Supervisor (UK and UNCG).
The Wave Clinic’s programmes have been designed by a team of experts and connect the highest standards in medical care and psychiatric treatment with education, dynamic therapeutic practice and an international GAP-year experience.
The Wave Clinic provides specialist treatment for mental health concerns, behavioural issues and addictions. Plus, it is the first adolescent eating disorder specialist centre for young people and their families. The clinic welcomes clients from around the world and is consistently rated amongst the top ranked choices for the treatment of teenagers, young adults and families, globally.