13/09/2018 07:36 BST | Updated 13/09/2018 07:38 BST

When My Phone Can Be The Enemy Of My Mental Health

Social media can make us feel worthless and not living up to expectations - that's certainly how I feel when my anxiety and low mood is at its worst

Klaus Vedfelt via Getty Images

In HuffPost UK’s 28-day scroll-free challenge, we’ll be trying to find a better balance with social media. Coinciding with the Royal Society For Public Health’s Scroll Free September campaign, we’ll be publishing experiences, tips and motivation. Sign up for our daily email featuring tips and motivation – you can start the challenge at any point in the month.

These days basically everyone is on at least one social media platform, be it Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. These are great and, by and large, as a society we’ve bought in to the various social media channels to keep up with friends, organise parties, stalk exes or just look at pretty pictures of someone’s lunch. On the face of it this sounds fantastic, but we all know it isn’t that simple.

Both regular folks and celebrities cultivate an image on social media that at best represents only the flashiest parts of their lives, and at worst is a photoshopped, airbrushed illusion. We all know that this can perpetuate feelings of insecurity, anxiety and lacking. Someone’s social media feed can make them feel like they are worthless and not living up to expectations, that’s certainly how I feel sometimes, especially when my anxiety and low mood is at its worst.

But for me, social media is not the blight on my mood that it can be for some other people. The real issue for me is that I can whip out my phone at any moment and jump on Instagram or Facebook, read the news or play some silly game. This might seem like an innocuous thing, but I really think that being able to distract myself at a moment’s notice has been a real drawback for me. I struggle with feelings of anxiety and depression and this quite often manifests itself in my lashing out at myself. Even at the best of times, I’m rarely my own best friend.

What being able to jump into another world at any moment, via my phone, means is that I have a very quick excuse to not learn to be comfortable with myself, to not really get to know myself. The immediate distraction allows me to push issues to the back of my mind in an instant and leave them unresolved and festering. But more than that, I never need to be alone with my own thoughts so I haven’t really ever given myself the opportunity to get to know myself, to unpick how I think and to work out how to be my own best friend. Instead, I scroll through Instagram or play a daft game.

I can hear the cries from some quarters that obviously I should have more self-control, put my phone down, turn it off and tap into my own feelings. But it’s not that simple for two reasons. Firstly, phones are needy and using them is kind of addictive. They buzz and flash and ring at every opportunity, sometimes even when you tell them not to, grabbing your attention like a digital, pocket-sized baby. And secondly, if you’re anything like me getting to know your own feelings is really scary, my own mind can be my biggest enemy and confronting that beast feels daunting. Even writing about the possibility of getting into my own head is terrifying so having an easy reason not to do so feels very safe and comforting. Of course this is only a short-term fix, it doesn’t really allow me to address the issues at the core of myself.

It can maybe seem like there is nothing to be done for people like me who always look to distract themselves from their feelings, but I think that there is. What I have tried to do is catch myself when I’m using my phone and either put it away and try and address my feelings or, failing that, look back at how I was feeling after the fact. I know that I should put my phone away or immerse myself in social, but the fact of the matter is that I often am, so the next best thing to do is to find a work around to try and help myself. People will always tell you what you should be doing, what you shouldn’t do, what the magic fix or poison pill is. Social media and our phones amplify these voices.

But the fact is that modern life is full of pressures, distractions and worries and all we can do is try and muddle through and find the solutions that work for us. Sometimes that can be scrolling through Instagram for a few minutes, and sometimes it’s turning my phone off and leaving it at home when I’m having a heart to heart with a friend over a coffee. Our phones don’t have to be our enemies. But being aware of how they can affect us is an important step in looking after our mental health.

This September HuffPost UK is challenging readers to back away from their social media feeds for 28 days in order to find new balance in our relationships with technology. Coinciding with the Royal Society For Public Health’s campaign Scroll Free September, we’ll be delivering the tips and motivation you need via a daily email. And the best part? You can sign up to start the challenge at any point in the month. So what are you waiting for?