Unplugged: College Edition
Hi, Unplug & Hug readers. I'm so excited to be a guest blogger on this great website, which happens to be founded by my awesome sister and Unplug & Hug founder, Annabel!
I’m a senior at Radford University in Radford Virginia, pursuing a Social Work degree. Based on my studies and personal observations, I can see that mental health issues pose a major problem to college students. Particularly when they are constantly plugged in to social media, texting or being inundated by so much information in our digital world.
For example, one in four college students have an undiagnosed mental health issue that stems from a variety stressors, including school, work, their social lives and a multitude of other responsibilities. Alone or combined, these things can lead to an array of problems, which are exacerbated by too much time spent using digital devices.
The majority of mental illnesses that develop in college are anxiety, depression, addiction and eating disorders. All of which I believe have a strong correlation to the excessive time spent on social media, and in front of computers and phones.
I know first-hand that there are plenty of students who lock themselves in their dorm rooms to spend time watching TV, text or stare at their phones for fun - looking at things like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
But this type of behavior can also lead to depression and anxiety.
Consider the simple act of scrolling. When we’re endlessly scrolling through our feeds to browse for something to learn, like or share, we’re also being inundated with photos and status updates that can sometimes be damaging to our self images. Things like, comparing ourselves to someone else’s life, seeing an ex or wondering, ‘why wasn’t I invited?’
That’s why it’s so important for students (and everyone else for that matter) to put down their phones and experience something in the real world. Simple activities like going for a drive, taking a walk or hitting the gym are fun activities that also let us experience life in a hands-on and meaningful way. They also have the added benefit of increasing endorphins that help us feel happier and more energetic.
So, what can you do?
Instead of locking yourself in a dorm room (or in your house for that matter) while waiting for a text to ding or a ‘like’ to come in, try taking a walk. Do any simple thing that lets you step away from your phone for just a bit of time, no matter what that means to you.
Here's a real-world example.
I spoke with Cory Jurentkuff, an Unplug & Hug founder, who suffers from Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety Disorder. Her symptoms started to appear during her college years, and have increasingly progressed into her 40s. She was officially diagnosed with the diseases at 34, after many years of struggles and searching for answers.
With a realistic look on the working world she says that “being connected is baked into my work life, especially because my career IS the field of digital as a career web professional. But that's true for all of us, really, simply because of the connected world we live in today.”
However, for her, over the 11 years she's suffered from a mental illness, she admits that sometimes the pressures related to over-stimulation from social media and texting in her personal life can be overwhelming. That’s why she takes breaks, saying, “putting down my phone to do simple things like cleaning my house, taking 15 minutes to read a book, making a cup of coffee or simply stepping outside to get a breath of fresh air are ways I can center myself when I feel overwhelmed.’
If you do suffer from mental illness, or feel the pangs of being emotionally unsettled (even in the slightest), even though little breaks might make you feel a bit better, that’s not a cure for these diseases. If you’re struggling and feeling any symptoms of depression, you should consult your doctor, seek treatment or simply tell a friend what you’re feeling. In fact, most colleges have free counseling that students can participate in for help, and for free.
Taking a break from our phones and computers is a healthy way to achieve balance in our lives. But if you find it’s becoming a barrier to functioning in your daily life, and you feel unsettled emotionally, get the facts and talk to someone if it becomes too much handle.
Ally Forde is a senior at Radford University in Virginia, studying Social Work. After graduation she plans to get her masters degree and become a licensed social worker. She loves working in the field of adult mental health and substance abuse.