Despite the name, social media can be remarkably isolating.

A recent BBC study asked 1,800 social media users how their accounts made them feel, and the results were pretty startling. The study found that social media not only added stress to the respondents’ lives, but it also increased awareness of the stress of others.

Between the vitriol, the constant updates, the notifications, the FOMO, and the fake news, social media is a never-ending scroll of stimulation and stress. Even before the pandemic, our socials were frustrating, and as a business owner I’ve had my own difficulties. But equally, I love how these platforms can create meaningful connections and give you a way to put your services in the hands of people who would love them the most.

So how do we navigate this complicated world without losing our marbles? Here are a few of my top tips from my years as a practicing social media manager.

Be Honest With Yourself

Toxic positivity never helped anybody, but endless doom-scrolling won’t help either. Take an honest look at the impact your socials are having on your life, and be real with yourself about the ups and the downs.

Social media is a really powerful tool. It’s a fantastic way to reach people, and social media marketing means that you don’t have to take out a billboard ad or a TV commercial to reach your customers. Plus, you also get more insight into who your consumers actually are, both through reliable analytics and direct interaction between you and your customers.

Sometimes, that interaction ends up looking like customer service. If you hear from a client on Twitter or LinkedIn that they have an issue, you can quickly and directly reply to them. This reduces friction of access for you and your customer, and gives you a chance to resolve issues quickly.

On the other hand, there’s also negative feedback you’re constantly facing. Receiving public criticism hurts, and internet rhetoric can be especially vicious. When we as business owners put ourselves out there, we make ourselves vulnerable. Feedback can be constructive, or it can be destructive, so when you’re getting piled on, remember that you don’t have to lean into everything.

Also, social media is time consuming. Pings, dings, notifications, and alerts can have us chained to our phones, and you can end up feeling like there’s an endless stream of to-do items. Don’t let your short-term notifications drive your long term priorities.

These are just some examples of the ups and the downs. Yours may look different, so sit down and think about the pros and the cons. How are you actually feeling? Self-knowledge is power.

Meditate. (Yes, Really)

Meditation is an ancient technique that I’m sure you’re tired of people telling you to try.

Look, I get it. I don’t know any business owner who has ever complained about having too much free time, but meditation is a really worthwhile investment. It increases your awareness, clarity, compassion, and sense of calm, and you can do it for free anywhere you want. (Take that, SoulCycle!)

When I started meditating, I did it because I wanted my headspace to be like a mental fortress; I was stressed, I was tired, and I needed more resiliency. I knew it was either learn to get calm inside my own brain, or quit my business.

I downloaded a meditation app (I use Headspace) and things got so much better from there. These days I can regulate my emotions around my social media, my business, and the rest of my life, and as a result I’m much better able to serve my clients and my community online.

Turn Off Your Notifications

If the idea of a social media manager who has their notifications turned off sounds bizarre, trust me, five years ago I would have agreed with you.

Notifications can be important, and it’s true that there are times when it’s important to be really responsive.But as a general business tactic, being at the constant whim of your phone notifications is a surefire way to burnout. Our bodies physically have a nervous-system response to notification noises, and that rush of attention and energy spiking through our bodies every time we get a ping is exhausting and bad for your work output. It doesn’t have to be like this.

Personally, here’s what works for me: I allow text messages and messages from my team to come through to my phone’s lock screen, and that’s it. No email, no Facebook messages, no Instagram or LinkedIn notifications, nothing. Instead, I set aside time every day to deliberately check my social media accounts and my email so I don’t forget.

The first year I did this, I missed a few messages. My initial response was panic. Was I going to upset a client? Miss a potential new connection? Spoiler alert: it was fine, and nothing anybody sent me needed my response within twenty seconds.

When you adopt this method, it lets you be strict with your time. I’m intentional about when I’m checking my messages, when I’m connecting with my team, and when I’m heads-down on projects. I use Asana and my Google Calendar to hold myself accountable.

Time-blocking freed me from being glued to my phone, and it dramatically reduced the amount of stress in my life. I know it sounds scary, but give it a shot if you’re feeling stretched too thin.

Cultivate Compassion

I’ve never personally found that anger or resentment did anything to help me in the long-term. Anger tells you that something is important, or that you’re afraid, or that you’re hurting, but once you’ve received that information, anger isn’t going to help you beyond that.

I find compassion to be an incredibly powerful tool when I encounter something upsetting online. If someone’s being mean or nasty, I imagine wrapping them in a big virtual hug. You don’t have to actually say that to them, because your compassion is more about you than it is about them. You don’t have to assume the worst about people just because that’s all you’re seeing from them. Life is complicated, and some people go online and troll or are rude because they don’t have another outlet. That’s sad. I can have compassion for that person’s heart, even if all I do is ignore the comment and go on with my day (or block them, if their words are particularly violent or hateful).

Compassion as a tool sounds super basic, but honestly it works better than just about anything else. Approach negative comments with a positive attitude or humor, if you can manage it! You may not be able to do this right away; that’s okay. Go get some water, let it sit, and reply when you’re feeling calmer. It takes practice.

Maybe someone left you a nasty comment on your promoted post, because they’ve seen it on their feed ten times and have no interest. That hurts to hear, but a simple, “I’m sorry you are seeing this so much, thanks for letting me know” is really all you need. You don’t owe them anything, but reframing your thinking and replying with politeness (if you choose to reply) will keep that negativity from chewing away at your peace of mind.

Be (Actually) Mindful

Many of the tips that I’ve talked about in this post have essentially been about one thing: approaching social media mindfully. It’s a platform that demands attention and rewards a short attention span. It dings and chimes and clamors for your notice. It makes you feel in-the-know and hopelessly out of the loop all at the same time.

You have to commit to letting go of instant gratification and instead prioritize having a relationship with social media that serves you, not the apps. Our apps are kind of like party-animal friends. They’re great to be around, but you don’t want them showing up at your house all the time unannounced, breaking your dishes and making a lot of noise while you’re trying to work.

When you develop a committed, mindful relationship with your socials, you’ll find that you’re actually able to enjoy them so much more. Instagram used to feel like a chore to me, but now that I time-block my social media usage, I actually look forward to logging in and catching up. It feels more like reading a really interesting magazine than having someone shouting at me in the back of my head all day. Social media is fun. It’s a fantastic way to build community and connect. When you’re intentional about how you use it, you’ll be amazed how your feelings around these platforms will change.

I hope that reading this guide has given you some ideas on how you can re-evaluate your relationship with social media and turn these platforms into something joyful, interesting, and, y’know, social.