Social Media vs. Rest – Stop Scrolling, Start Coping

Erin Olszewski, M.A., LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

When dealing with stressful situations, mental health symptoms, or even just the basic daily stressors of life, we often hear vague advice like, “Just take it easy!” or “Just relax!” But what does relaxing and taking it easy really entail?


If you’ve ever been to a therapy session, there’s a good chance that your therapist prescribes new methods of resting and coping right off the bat. Many symptoms of distress, like depression and anxiety, can be alleviated through the use of adequate coping skills and obtaining meaningful physical, emotional and psychological rest.

Several of us would consider binge-watching TV or scrolling through social media as resting; however, how rested does one really feel after engaging in these activities? As it turns out, all of those hours spent viewing various platforms of content aren’t as beneficial as we think.

Media like Netflix, TikTok and Instagram can absolutely deliver a quick and temporary dopamine high, but what happens after? Unfortunately, what goes up must come down, and oftentimes people who spend a lot of time using media and social media wind up experiencing dopamine crashes. These crashes then lead to the user seeking additional fast dopamine highs, and the cycle restarts with no real rest in between.

Additionally, these “coping skills” provide a great distraction to whatever stressor we want to cope from, however that’s all that they are – a distraction. Sometimes that’s all we need, just to get through the day or even the moment! Long-term, however, these kinds of coping skills don’t actually help us overcome whatever it is we’re coping with. In fact, long-term social media usage has been correlated with an increase in depression and anxiety symptoms.

So, what does rest really look like?

When finding a new coping skill, we not only want to give rest to the body, but to the mind as well. Scrolling social media doesn’t always give the mind a rest; it can contribute to thoughts of worry, isolation, social comparison and low self-esteem. Instead, let’s turn towards coping skills that give both the brain and body a break:

Mindfulness and meditation: living in the moment and focusing your attention on one thing at a time. This can be your breath, a visualization, a mantra, a yoga pose, a food item, etc. Focusing on one thing at a time helps your mind to refocus itself to become more present-oriented and less involved with future worries or past ruminations.

Journaling: Whether it’s writing out thoughts and feelings as they arise, or recapping your day before bed, journaling is an excellent method of coping with stressors. Journaling not only connects your thoughts to your feelings, but it can also provide (over time) a blueprint to any negative thought patterns or triggers that may normally go unseen.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): PMR targets each muscle group and assists with releasing any excess tension in the body. How to: Starting at the very bottom, gently squeeze your toes/feet as tight as your body will allow, and after about 5 seconds, release. Then, move on to your leg muscles – gently squeeze as tightly as your body will allow, and after 5 seconds, release. Move up to the next muscle group (glutes, abs/core, hands, arms, neck/shoulders, and finally your face) until you’ve squeezed every muscle you can think of. Scan your body for any excess tension, and repeat as needed.

Social media can be a fun way to stay connected to friends or peek into the lives of celebrities, but it can also become a dangerous habit. If you find yourself binge-watching and doom-scrolling to distract from daily stressors, try out some of these other coping skills and see how rested you feel!