In the wake of an extremely tense election, Americans’ social media feeds are crammed with political news and angry commentary from both sides. Your once-relaxing lunchtime Facebook habit now further spikes your stress level. Feel your chest tightening as you scroll through your Twitter feed? It’s time to unplug.
But that’s easier said than done. Unless you plan to completely shut down your ever-present phone, you’ll have to ignore nagging notifications. Even if you turn them off, your brain will actively push you to check your feeds: Sharing your views online releases feel-good dopamine in your brain, and over time, social media users grow to crave those clicks, likes, and favorites. When bored or seeking comfort, many of us will unthinkingly visit a social app or website.
That’s why, if you want to de-stress, you’ll have to actively prevent weekend-you from checking your feeds. Here are a few ways to do that, from least to most extreme.
Disable your notifications
The most minor option is to turn off notifications for each platform, disabling email updates, phone notifications, and any other alerts. Then, when the urge to check social media hits, you’ll have to distract yourself. Instead of going to Instagram, try playing a game, browsing Wikipedia, or searching for cute animal pictures.
This is not a very strong deterrent, because it takes just one memory lapse to find yourself typing a social URL into your browser. Luckily, there’s an easy fix to protect you from your own absent-mindedness.
Use an app
Many productivity apps allow you to block access to specific websites and apps for set periods of time. For your computer, try Focus (for Macs) or FocusMe (for Windows and Macs). For your phone, FocusMe also has an Android version, and Offtime works on both iOS and Android. Mac users can also go nuclear with Self Control, which blocks websites for up to 24 hours at a time and is nearly impossible to disable (you can literally delete it from your hard drive, and you still won’t regain access to the pre-selected blacklisted websites until the time’s up).
Apps like these work best if you’re looking for a relaxing weekend rather than a longer hiatus. After all, some of them only limit social media for 8 to 24 hours at a time. Another solution is to make it a hassle to access these platforms at all.
Scorch the earth
This method works best if you’d like to reduce social media for longer than a weekend. First, delete or disable all the social apps on your phone. To restrict your computer, first log out of your social platforms. Then delete your web browser’s cookies and saved passwords. Now you won’t automatically get logged in every time you visit Facebook. You can always re-install an app or type your password back in (if you still remember it), but when these platforms take more time to access, you’re more likely to remember to avoid them
The downside is that if (or really, let’s be honest here, when) you decide to rejoin your social communities, you’ll have to jump through a few hoops to get back. But if you’re really feeling stressed, staying away from social media for longer could also be a positive outcome.
Just shut it down
The advantage of the previous three options is that they don’t block the Internet. You can stay alert to texts from friends and e-mails from work, use a meditation app, or even go on a Netflix binge. For total digital detox, however, you can shut everything down.
Turn off your phone, put it in a box, wrap that box in duct tape, and put the bundle in another, larger box. The longer it will take you to access your device, the more likely you are to stop halfway through unwrapping that tape and remember why you’re avoiding social media in the first place. For your computer, you don’t need to restrict the physical device—you just need to restrict the Internet. Unplug your wireless router, and put it off-limits with the same “box and tape and box” method you used on your phone.
Then try some scientifically proven de-stressing activities. Hit the gym for a hard workout. Meditate. Read, watch, or listen to something that will make you laugh out loud. Sing along to your favorite musical. And if you’re still craving social interactions, try spending time with family and friends—in real life.