Archive of ‘Social Media’ category

Tips from a Therapist: Ways to Adjust to Life in Quarantine

Quarantine Zoom Call

“We’re all just making this up as we go along”, a very dear friend told me recently regarding the quarantine. These resounding words have stuck with me not only in my personal life, but my professional life as well. All of my clients, regardless of their circumstances, are making this up as they go along. All of us collectively are leaning into a huge amount of vulnerability, not knowing what the rest of the year will look like.

In lieu of social distancing and the extension of the quarantine, staying at home way more than leaving has become a new norm. We have become accustomed to isolating ourselves with our living partners. We have also been deprived of the external stimulation we were experiencing the first two months of 2020 (especially in Austin where there is external stimulation galore!!).

Through months of hard experience as well as the beautiful stories of hope my clients give me, I have made a list of tips for us to do in order to better cope with the harsh reality of quarantine. As a society, we are perhaps more in need of healthy connections, self-reflection, and coping strategies now more than we ever have been. Below are five helpful ways to adapt to social distancing so that we are alone but not lonely. 

Take Time for Ourselves (TV, gaming, “you” time)

What does this look like for you? Taking time for myself means watching my favorite movie or bingeing a favorite TV show. My partner is a huge gamer and self-care for him looks like playing his favorite game. The point is to DISCONNECT. Disconnect from work emails, news sources, endless desk time that our bodies were not made for. Disconnecting from the “outside world” gives your mind and body a much-needed pause and recharge. 

Zoom or FaceTime a Friend or Family Member

What does your social support look like in these strange times? We have all become so isolated with social distance. But the thing to remember with social distancing is: Just because we are social distancing does not mean we should emotionally distance. Check on a friend you have not talked to in a while. Call a family member you are rekindling a relationship with. Facetime a former coworker you had a great relationship with! Our friends and family need to be checked in on just as much as we do.

Re-Evaluate Your Mental Health

Realistically, most of us have been struggling long before the pandemic. Whether it has been anxiety, depression, relationship issues, bipolar, ADHD, any kind of mental struggle has undoubtedly been exacerbated by staying quarantined. Being deprived of the things that have brought us joy our whole lives will bring some kind of sadness, grief, or anxiety. Our mental health matters more so now than it ever has. If you need a therapist, by all means reach out to Austin Family Counseling! We have virtual counseling to ensure the safety of all of our clients.

Re-Evaluation of Self-Care

What does self-care look like for you in quarantine? We have been forced to change our methods of taking care of ourselves. Things like going to the gym, going to concerts, going to your favorite museum (some self-care methods I used to engage in prior to the pandemic), are now changed, and we are having to be very creative. Things like going for a run, discovering new bands, and watching live concerts online all have become my new norm as they are the safest and most socially distant alternatives to my former ways of self-care.

Adopt an Animal

Studies show that having an animal improves our overall happiness and quality of life. In times like these, life quality improvement is an absolute must! There are so many animals in Austin that need homes. And if we are stuck at home most of the time, why not have a furry human to keep us company?! Austin Animal Center, Austin Pets Alive!, and Austin Humane Society are all places that are open during pandemic and are actively allowing pet parents to adopt and foster pets!

By: Ian Hammonds, LPC, LMFT

How to Talk About “Hookup Culture” with Tweens and Teens

(AKA What the Heck is the Hot Girl Summer Challenge and why is it influencing my teen to want to “hookup”?)

If you are like me, you may have little-to-no knowledge about the Hot Girl Summer Challenge that is blowing up on tween and teen social media accounts, most notably, Tik Tok.  When I first heard about it from one of my clients, I felt totally out of the loop.  With very little research, I was able to find out that it is based on a song from last summer by Megan Thee Stallion called “Hot Girl Summer.” She says on Twitter, “Being a Hot Girl is about being unapologetically YOU, having fun, being confident, living YOUR truth, being the life of the party, etc.” What I’ve learned from talking to teens and tweens is that this message has translated very differently to different kids.  For some, it truly is about inspiration and positivity while for others, it is in inspiration to “hookup”. I’ve seen lists that include…

Hot Girl Summer Challenge – Version 1

  • Taking a bath (5 points)
  • Working out (10 points)
  • Staying up all night with your best friend (15 points)
  • Doing something nice for a friend (15 points)

Unfortunately the song and its message has also been the inspiration for lists that look like this:

Hot Girl Summer Challenge – Version 2

  • Sexting (5 points)
  • Hookup with 2 guys (10 points)
  • Ghost someone (10 points)
  • Hot tub makeout (10 points)

As a parent myself, when I hear about trends like this, I panic a little inside. Further, I feel the strong pull to get my kids in front of me and tell them about every possible danger they might face and how to protect themselves.  However, what I have learned as a therapist and Positive Discipline Trainer is that trends like this one are actually OPPORTUNITIES for us to connect with our kids. 

START HERE: Be Genuinely Curious About Their World

Start with approaching your kiddo with an attitude of curiosity.  If you are really anxious or worried when you bring this up, they will feel it and shut down or become upset. Ground yourself first by taking deep breaths or trying one of the practices in this blog by my dear colleague Julie Burke, LPC.

Conversational Curiosity Questions:

  • Can you teach me about ___?
  • What is Hot Girl Summer? Can you tell me about it?
  • Are your friends doing it?
  • What were you trying to accomplish?
  • What’s the goal of Hot Girl Summer? 
  • How do you get points? 
  • What do you think of HGS?
  • How do you feel about what happened?
  • How did you feel about your score being posted by your BFF? 
  • Are you okay?
  • What did you learn from this experience?
  • What did you learn from what happened?/What are you learning from the HGS Challenge?
  • What ideas do you have to take care of the problem now?
  • What ideas do you have to move forward with Tik Tok use in a safe way?
  • What agreements do you want to make about your phone and social media use?
  • How do you plan to address this issue with your BFF? 
  • Is there any other information you can give me to help me understand?

For counseling for your tween/teen and or for parent support, please reach out to AFC to talk to a therapist today!  [email protected]  

For more information about parenting tweens and teens, please check out the following::

By: Lora Ferguson, MA, LPC-S, AFC Founder & Co-Director


Social Media & Mental Health

If I were to have 20, 50, or even 100 people in a room and asked them all if they had a social media account, chances are all (or most everyone) would say “yes”.  Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., (you get the point), social media has become (and has been for years) a fundamental component of people’s lives.  By definition, social media is a website and/or application that enables users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.  While this is an accurate definition, it oversimplifies everything that social media represents in society today.  Social media is a way to stay connected with others and it creates opportunities for new ideas & inspiration, however, it can also create avenues for self-loathing, cyberbullying, and envy.  While it’s certainly not all good or all bad, it’s important to be mindful of the impacts social media can have on mental health. 

How Social Media is Beneficial

  • Enhanced Connectivity
    • It has become easier for us to connect with business people, family and friends and maintain relationships that may otherwise have not been sustained. 
  • Encourages Creativity & Innovative Thinking
    • Social media sites are all about content in a variety of forms. From written content to photos and graphics, there are many ways for users to participate, engage, and show off their creativity.
  • Using Social Media for the Greater Good
    • Social media offers easy ways to show support for (or condemn) an issue, raise money, promote a charity event or spread an important message. People can be encouraged to get involved in philanthropic and altruistic causes via social media.
  • Social media can benefit people already dealing with mental health issues by helping them build online communities that provide a source of emotional support. 
    • This can be invaluable for people with various health conditions to know they are not alone and to know there are sources of support.  These individuals are often one of the most vulnerable in society and can help reduce the stigma attached to seeking treatment.

Potential Detrimental Effects of Social Media

  • Social Media Use Can Lead to Feelings of Depression & Loneliness
    • Ever heard of FOMO (fear of missing out)?  Social media is a platform for people to showcase their best selves (and best version of their lives).  It’s all-too-easy for someone to peruse through a friend’s social media account and feel lonely (because they’re left out)—which could lead to feelings of depression.  This phenomena has been referred to as Facebook Envy
  • Worsened Body Image (particularly for young women)
    • When people, especially women, follow pages/accounts/media that depict attractive women’s photos, it can cause adverse effects on body image and decrease self-esteem.  When people interact with family members on social media, this does not happen. 
  • Worsened Attention Span
    • Because social media provides a means of constantly giving into the temptation of instant, easy-access entertaining, this ultimately means people can (and do) become more easily distracted. 
  • Poor Sleep Habits
    • Checking your phone ONE more time before bed is a habit that many people have created.  Doing this can create anxiety or envy—which ultimately keeps the brain on high alert and prevents people from falling asleep.  Additionally, having light from a mobile device inches from our face can suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps us feel tired.

What to Do About It

  • Turn off your notifications for at least a few hours each day.  This can be accomplished by putting your phone in “Airplane” mode or “Do Not Disturb”
  • Delete apps that contribute to unhealthy body image or feelings of inadequacy. 
  • Add apps or follow pages that help you feel better about yourself or inspire you to engage in healthy behaviors.  Some of our recommendations include:
  • Take a day off from social media to focus on other things.  We recommend doing this on a day that you don’t have school or work so you can use that time to participate in other activities you enjoy 
  • Make a plan with a group of friends to spend more time hanging out in person and less time interacting via social media.
  • Set boundaries or only certain times when you can check your notifications.  This can be done by setting screentime limits. 
  • If you are a parent wanting to learn more about how to limit your child or teenager’s social media use, check out these additional tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Ultimately, using social media, screens, anything like that is not ALL bad and shouldn’t be banished, however, it’s important to be mindful of the detrimental effects and be intentional about how much time you do (or do not) allow yourself & your children to be on social media. 

By: Julie Burke, LPC

Follow her on Instagram for some positive social media posts!