A guest post by Andrew Fraser, Schoolhouse PR/Social Media Manager.

We’re almost to the end of July, swiftly moving through the summer months. While many of us had hoped that the pandemic would be behind us by now, unfortunately – it’s still very much a part of our everyday reality.

We’re relearning how to live our day-to-day lives while respecting the rules that keep us all safe. We’re unlearning old habits and learning new ones – a difficult process that requires a lot of self-reflection and can leave us feeling a bit, well… on edge. On top of the tough task of learning how to cope with everything that has been presented to us, we also may find ourselves experiencing heightened anxiety and uncertainty; most notably around the idea of what can happen every time we choose to step foot outside; out of the comfort and security of our own homes.

On top of this sense of uncertainty that 2020 has become synonymous with, every time we open a newspaper, turn on the TV, or scroll through social media feeds – we’re more at risk than ever before of being bombarded with negativity. Whether it’s in the form of news articles, social media posts, videos – so much of what we consume focuses on tragedy, lost lives, increases in infections, and sad truths about how far we are from herd immunity/a vaccine to protect us from the wrath of this virus. That’s not to say that some of this news isn’t important, because it is.

However, there’s a point where this overconsumption of all forms of media – good or bad – starts to become too much. As we continue to mindlessly swipe and consume, we are overloaded with content that the algorithm knows we probably will want to see. That content has the potential to make us cry, feel triggered, upset, anxious – the list goes on. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions and, just like a well-crafted horror film, we often continue watching (sometimes while covering our eyes) even though we’re terrified of what we might see.

It’s difficult to step outside of ourselves to see how much of an impact that overconsumption can have on our state of wellbeing. We’re already vulnerable enough as it is, and for many of us, stress and anxiety levels are at an all-time high.

As a social media manager who feels the pressure to constantly stay connected – let me tell you this. You have a right to step away from it all whenever you want. Yes, you will probably end up with a case of ‘FOMO’ – ie. the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’. It’s okay, though – it only makes sense when you consider that so many of us spend so much time in the run of a single day consuming content and engaging socially online.

As a brand, we don’t want to miss out on the chance to re-share your Instagram stories or to respond to customer emails, comments, and requests. As a consumer, you want to be sure you don’t miss out on sales, specials, and new product launches. On top of all that, the social platforms we use to stay connected have been designed and programmed in a way that is meant to leave us feeling insatiable… like we can truly never get enough.

The notifications, the comments, the likes – it’s a non-stop rush of dopamine and serotonin that keeps us coming back for more. The more time you spend, the harder it is to step away. It’s almost as if it’ll never be enough.

Instead, we need to normalize the concept of setting boundaries and routines around how much time we allow ourselves to spend on our phones; on social media platforms, news websites, etc. Honestly, unless you actively turn off your phone/computer or leave the house without them, it can be really difficult to disconnect yourself entirely.

There’s no denying that we have incredible tools and platforms for communication available to us in modern society; especially when it comes to staying connected, up-to-date and informed. In fact, here at Schoolhouse, we use them regularly to share weekly specials. To update you on exciting news, big changes happening with the business, and even to let you know about new blog posts that we’ve written just like this one.

All of that aside, we need to realize that by setting limits, it becomes much easier to find the strength to step away when we need a break. With more free time, we are then able to focus on being present with friends, family, and loved ones. This can also give us the opportunity to spend more time doing things we love; you know – those hobbies we say we never have enough time left in the run of regular day to do.

The anxiety and uncertainty we feel in 2020 isn’t entirely related to media consumption and social media usage. While they do contribute to it, there are a number of other factors at play. For some of us, careers are on hold. Parents are working from home while also being full-time caregivers, teachers, and babysitters. Some businesses after being forced to shut down for 3+ months have been forced to close for good/may never be able to re-open. Those that have been able to open back up, are feeling unsure of how much longer they’re going to be able to survive. It’s a combination of so many different things that leaves us wondering how we’re going to be able to survive while making ends meet.

You know, now that we’ve all been forced to live out on the edge, certain parts of it can be great. It’s where we can learn to take risks; to step outside of our comfort zones; to run with ideas we’ve been sitting on at 60% for so long. On the other hand, the edge can be the most terrifying place to be when you feel like you’re constantly in fear of falling off.

Regardless of how you’re feeling about being out on the edge, just remember to be kind to yourself and gentle with others around you. We’re all navigating unknown territory here and it’s so easy to judge ourselves and others for the way we’re choosing to cope with it all. Rather than referring to this as our “new normal”; let’s just be realistic about the fact that what we’re experiencing is FAR from normal.

And the fact that things aren’t normal… well, I’d say there’s a lot of important change that has been able to take place as a result. This pandemic shook society to its core and we’ve been able to stand up to say enough is enough; Black Lives Matter. We are starting to recognize the injustices all around us; to be able to stand up for BIPOC community members that deserve SO MUCH better. We are realizing how important it is to spend more of our hard-earned dollars locally; to show up for businesses that seriously need our help to stay afloat.

2020 has been a tough year for so many of us, there’s no doubt about that. So many lives have been lost. The economy has taken a serious hit. Families, friends, and loved ones have been forced to spend a lot of time apart. At the same time, with patience, things are looking brighter with each passing day. We’ve been given an opportunity to look at our lives and the world from a brand new perspective. To stand up for what is right and to start doing things differently. To take care of our neighbours, our local businesses, our communities – and ourselves.

The future is still unclear. We don’t know how or when we’ll be able to put this virus or pandemic behind us. I have been trying to wake up every morning feeling grateful to be alive.

We really have to be mindful to remind ourselves that – while the edge can be a beautiful, eye-opening place to be – the answer is not to step off of it. It’s okay to enjoy the view. To look around and take in your surroundings. Just know that we’re all, in some way or another, out here on the edge – and we need to stick together if we’re going to find the right path to the future.

How are you managing anxiety and uncertainty these days? Let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Onward and up,
Andrew

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