It’s no secret that I am a digital marketing expert with mental health issues. I’m bold about it. It’s not going to go away, and so all I feel like I can do is check in with professionals, spread mental health awareness and, frankly, own the conditions that frequently hamper my life. I don’t reckon there’s much more a girl can do than that.
In my line of work – specifically content creation and social media management – I’ve become hyper-aware of how important social media manager wellbeing is. Our jobs don’t make optimum mental health particularly easy.
Think about it. Every day, we:
- Are sitting in front of a screen for hours at a time.
- Switch constantly between channels and have to manage them differently.
- Hold huge responsibility for a company’s reputation.
- Must be strategic.
- Must be creative.
- Must be process driven.
- Must deal with data and numbers.
- Must have perfect communication skills.
It’s just a handful of the things we juggle, and that’s before the general impact of office politics, commuting, people management and the rest.
Without serving our mental health, it’s hard to do our job to its full potential because it has so many strands that you need to prove you’re professional at, time and time again.
I’ve identified the areas that need most mental health attention from a social media manager’s point of view, and have put this blog post together as a social media manager wellbeing toolkit type article to help you out when you most feel the strain of mental health struggle.
Please note I am in no way a mental health professional. The below has been constructed simply from my own experiences of what helped me. In the first instance with any mental health issue, the best person to see is a doctor.
Social media manager burnout
Feeling burnt out means you’ve been burning the candle at both ends for too long, and brain and body is starting to give up on you a bit.
Recovering from burnout requires proper, quality breaks from work, serious self-care time and – most importantly – quality sleep.
As lots of the other categories below are self-care focused, let’s focus on how to get the very best restful sleep that you can.
Set your alarm for when you actually want to get up
I’m so guilty of this! I generally need to get up around 7 am every morning, but for reasons known only to the universe, I have spent years setting my alarm for 6.15 am every weekday. Never once have I jumped out of bed to start the day at that time.
20 snoozes later, it’s 7 am and I’ve achieved nothing but very broken naps that make me extra resentful to leave my bed, missing out on 45 minutes of decent sleep that could’ve made all the difference to my overall wellbeing.
Let’s do this one together. No more setting your alarm clock to wake you up early for no reason: at burnout point, those extra minutes fast asleep are going to do you a world of good.
Tidy your room
Seriously, put time aside to do this. Treat yourself to freshly washed sheets, do away with the clutter and make your room as cosy and calming as you can. Set yourself up for a really restful night.
Use a pillow spray
If you get on with this sort of thing, a gorgeous aromatherapy pillow spray can be really great for inducing deep sleep.
I love This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray when I’m having trouble drifting off. If you’re tempted to invest, don’t be put off by the tiny bottles – there’s something magical in there that does the job with a single spray!
Try a hypnosis podcast
I swear by the very old but very effective 3 Minute Hypnosis podcast for really troublesome nights when my mind just won’t quieten down.
Pop the Hypnotic Sleep episode on when you slide into bed and let this gorgeously hypnotic meditation lull you into slumber.
Read fiction (or nothing!)
Hands up who thinks bedtime is the best time for entrepreneurial, business or self-help books? 🙋♀️
I did too for a long while – holidays too. And then my therapist kindly informed me that I was causing an absolute nightmare for my sleeping pattern.
She recommended me book that appealed to my love of all things Parisian, called The Little Paris Bookshop, and assured me that all I was doing by reading non-fiction books before bed was setting my mind racing rather than winding down for the evening.
If you’re not so au fait with fiction, ask a friend to recommend you something lovely for bedtime. It’ll be something to talk about, whether you love or hate the story!
Have a screen-free hour
I know you know this. Blue light offered up by our computers and smartphones is detrimental to sleep, so you need to ditch all the screens at least an hour before bedtime.
Use that time to work up a ritual that begins with putting down your phone and turning off Brooklyn 99.
Take regular breaks
Moving away from optimising bedtime, it’s important to also manage your relaxation during the day – especially while you’re working.
To really recover from burnout, you have to reserve any remaining mental energy after you’ve exerted yourself, and re-charge what you have for the next task. This just means taking breaks. Not just spending five minutes scrolling through Instagram (you are already spending a lifetime managing social media, don’t add to it!) between working on documents, but actually getting up to make a drink and stretch your legs, taking time to breathe deeply and moving away from a screen to collect your thoughts/reflect on the day so far.
If you’re not great at scheduling regular breaks for yourself, get yourself this Pomodoro timer. Really take the time to be mindful about your breaks – you’ll be amazed at how your energy levels transform when you reserve brain power and have a rest after intense spells of work/concentration.
Take full days off
Not only that but be strict about hard stop times when your working day is over.
Your brain is no doubt magnificent, but it’s not indestructible. Letting your work seep into evenings and weekends and over-scheduling yourself will lead to further burnout because you’re experiencing constant stress, eventually reaching a point where you don’t have the energy to do anything at all.
You’re entitled to rest and relaxation. Take it. 💜
Treat yourself to a Buddy Box
Burnout can have all kinds of physical and psychological effects and symptoms, from funny tummies and nausea to finding life relentlessly hard, even unjustified feelings of guilt.
Just as you would when you’re sick, it’s entirely reasonable to feel like you need a little nurturing and a pick-me-up. A Buddy Box is my favourite way to cheer myself up after a tricky mental health period.
They can be sent to someone who’s struggling with a personalised note, or you can treat yourself to one. You’ll be sent a box full of depression-friendly goodies, from edible bits to easy arts and crafts projects, and generally just offer up an opportunity to shut out the outside world and focus on you.
If you have the cash to spare, I highly recommend these.
Social media manager anxiety
Ergh, anxiety. That horrible mental illness that affects so many of us in big and small ways.
At one end of the scale, we’ve got the over-alertness, churning tummy and racing thoughts. At the other end, we’ve got the crippling fear of failure, of social interaction and the complete undoing of concentration levels.
Anxiety is completely subjective in its symptoms and in its duration. It can appear as a one-off episode or a long-term trait. Either way, the best you can do is manage it.
Here are a few things that have helped me in the past…
Ditch the coffee
Caffeine is not anxiety’s friend, and much of the time alcohol isn’t either. As much as you can, switch your regular tea or coffee to something herbal or, even better, plain old water.
So often I’ve got into a coffee-drinking habit just because that’s what my colleagues are drinking or because I’m working in cafes a lot. That’s fine when my mental health is in a good place, but when anxiety comes crashing in it makes things 100x worse.
When that happens, make a concerted effort to reduce your caffeine intake, and know that this is a great step in the right direction (and being caffeine-free is not forever, unless you want it to be).
Nourish your body
I totally understand that when you’re stressed, riddled with anxious feelings and social media management feels like the hardest job in the world, the last thing you want to do is put an hour aside to spend in the kitchen.
Although it’s quick to grab packaged lunches and order a pizza in after a hard day at work, these foods are simply not bringing you the nutrients, tastes or benefits of home cooking, in which you’d ideally be using lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Not only will cooking wholesome meals positively impact your energy levels, appearance and bank account, but your cognitive behaviours should improve too, easing anxiety and putting you firmly in control of what you’re nourishing your body with.
I work really hard to pack my meals with protein and vegetables but do have my slips into consistently eating out or turning to fast foods. If I need to pull myself out of a bad eating patch, I turn to Wholeheartedly Laura’s healthy recipes, and after a couple of days, I feel like a new woman. It’s so worth the kitchen time and a little forward planning!
Take belly breaths
Something magical happened to me when I started taking big, deep breaths from my belly instead of my chest.
Five big breaths like this have an almost instant calming effect on me when I’m anxious or nervous about something, or if I’m simply overwhelmed with work. A couple of weeks of doing this religiously every day saw my complexion brighten, my anxiety levels lower and – craziest of all – my anxiety-induced IBS pretty much entirely cleared up.
There’s a lot to be said for making sure oxygen is being properly distributed around the body, and the secret lies in the humble belly breath.
You know that feeling of sheer panic you get when you look at your to-do list and it’s just one big clump of endless tasks, spanning pages of your notebook? Well, my friend, that setup is doing nothing for your nerves.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have all your tasks in one place – definitely do that. But once you’ve tipped everything out of your head you need to turn it into something manageable by prioritising.
At the beginning of each day, check your calendar and your deadlines and pull out the top three or four things that are genuinely deadline driven and MUST be done by the end of that day.
Now write them down on a fresh new page, and break each task down into tiny steps. I’m talking as small as, for example; log into WordPress > open fresh blog page > find blog post notes > decide final title etc. We’re looking for tiny but manageable steps to making a significant dent in your pressing tasks for the day.
This method is a lot less overwhelming than pulling things at random from one big list. Sure, it takes time to learn that you probably can’t do everything you’d like to get done in one day, but sit with those feelings and manage the expectations of your colleagues in terms of when you can realistically get their content requests (or whatever they’ve asked of you) done.
Invest in an aromatherapy rollerball
When I wake up and just get that dreaded feeling that today won’t be an easy one with my anxious feelings, I make sure I roll a cheeky slick of my Tisserand lavender rollerball onto my inner wrist.
They have a few different flavours to help you reclaim a “me moment”, ranging from renewed energy to calmness to mindfulness. All of their products use aromatherapy to assist you day-to-day, and I find a quick whiff of lavender goodness re-focuses my mind during periods of anxiety.
Share your anxiety worries
No matter what the message contains, my anxiety levels peak when I have loads of messages, phone calls and post that I need to respond to or take action on. Unfortunately, that sentiment rarely changes, whether I’m being contacted by my best friend of the tax man. That’s just the way mental illness goes sometimes.
If you’re feeling up to it, by far the best thing to do is to share with a couple of close friends what you’re going through, and let them know that if you don’t reply to something right way then they need not worry. You’re just managing things in your own time. A good friend will understand. What I love about my friends is that they know by now just to let me come back to them when I’m ready and that the space I need is not at all personal. I’m just learning to deal with what my anxious brain puts me through.
Make an emergency calm list
Much like I’ve done with this blog post to help you, it’s a great idea to jot down a list of things that calm you down when you’re having an anxiety attack or just when those feelings aren’t going away.
Keep the list somewhere easily accessible at all times – like in your desk drawer or on your phone – and make those actions simple to carry out, easy to do anywhere and, most importantly, that you know have a calming effect on you.
Check out the Blurt blog
Another big up for The Blurt Foundation!
Their blog is an absolute treasure trove of easy-to-digest, heartfelt and understanding information written especially for those suffering with mental illness. There’s not much you won’t find in there to deal with any situation relating to feelings of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.
If you feel like you’re in real trouble or need more hands-on support, their resource list can also point you in the right direction to seek help.
Check in with the doctor
If you’re experiencing a long bout of anxiety, I really recommend making a GP appointment.
It’s not that your doctor is going to magic up a cure or start delving into every area of your life to find a cause for anxiety, but mental health check-ins with a professional are important – even if your last appointment wasn’t that long ago.
A good doctor will ask some questions about how you feel, and recommend some next steps for you which you only need to take if you feel comfortable with them. The worst thing that can happen is that you take no next steps, but your doctor makes some notes on your file so that they can revisit them in the future.
If you have an appointment with a doctor that feels unsuccessful or like you’ve been misunderstood for any reason, simply head to reception on your way out and ask for a future appointment with a different doctor (you may even want to ask the receptionist for a doctor with significant experience with mental health cases). You have absolutely every right to see a medical professional that you connect with – mental health is delicate, important and incredibly personal.
Social media manager imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome is, thankfully, being talked about more and more.
If you’ve had persistent doubts about your own achievements – from doubting that you deserve qualifications you have earned to fear of being exposed as a fraud – despite having all the evidence that you’re competent at what you do, you’ve probably had a bout of the ol’ syndrome.
It’s a common trait among high-achieving women, who are prone to experiencing undeserving feelings around any success they have worked for – often dismissing this as a fluke, luck or even deceiving others into thinking they are intelligent.
It sucks, basically. And I think it’s time we kicked imposter syndrome in the butt, don’t you?
Regain control of your to-do list
A quick win in the face of imposter syndrome is to grant yourself control of your work production.
See the “anxiety” section above for my guidance on prioritising your to-do list. In general, if you organise yourself in a way that works for you, track your tasks expertly and manage the expectations of others, you’re less likely to let overwhelm build up at work and feel like you’re failing. A decent task management system really is worth the time you invest in it – make it happen.
When do you feel at your best?
I feel great when I’ve taken full responsibility for my medical appointments (and actually show up for them), made myself a nutritious dinner (with enough to spare for tomorrow’s lunch), painted my nails and washed my best, most fierce lady boss outfits and hung them in my wardrobe ready for rocking.
Your version of self-care might be different, but there’s one thing that will almost definitely unite us: taking care of ourselves makes us feel better.
Whether looking polished boosts your confidence for the day ahead or reading a book for ten minutes each morning sets you up for a gruelling work schedule, put yourself first. Magical mindset shifts can happen when you do.
Try an affirmation podcast
Affirmations aren’t for everyone – I’m very sceptical about them generally, but in the past, I’ve not been afraid to give things a try when I’ve felt completely unfocused and muddled. As a result, I discovered Affirmation Pod by Josie Ong.
I particularly like her morning affirmation episodes, as I find them particularly inspiring when suffering from depression or anxiety and the thought of getting out of bed fills me with dread. But she has affirmations for all situations, including imposter syndrome. If you get on well with this podcast, Josie might just become your new best friend.
Get to a digital marketing event
When it comes to imposter syndrome, there’s just as much to be said for throwing yourself in at the deep end as there is for treating yourself gently. It depends on the kind of person you are.
Personally, I need to know I have my self-care in place so that I look my best and feel polished. Rightly or wrongly, this gives me more confidence to do my work. But I also need to be around people or be taught something when I feel good, so I feel like I’m not being forgotten by the rest of the world while I deal with these fraudster feelings and worries.
If that sounds like you, chat to some people in your team, check out a few event listings in your area and get yourself out there, connecting, debating, networking and upskilling. Those who have purchased one of my Ultimate UK Content Planners will be receiving a monthly email absolutely PACKED with events you can attend all over the UK. My customers don’t have to look far to get amongst the elites of their sector!
If you’re feeling like a work event (digital marketing conferences, social media workshops, blogging presentations… you know the type) will leave you feeling a bit too vulnerable right now, book up something completely different instead. I’m all about cooking classes and will HAPPILY attend one with you if you’re looking for something to do in London!
Bread making, anyone?
Social media manager writer’s block/creative lapse
Writer’s block or creative dry spells are just so annoying. I feel like us digital marketing/social media manager types are particularly susceptible to them because our jobs are divided completely; creativity and spontaneity are an absolute must for true social media trailblazing, but we have to work just as hard at being strategic in all we do, formulating process for content creation and, of course, stats reporting.
If you’re falling victim to the daily grind that’s so proficient at leeching any creative capability out of you, make some space to try a few of these little tricks…
Take a walk
This tedX talk was presented in a meeting recently. It’s all about the power of walking when applied right before a cretive brainstorm. I have tried it myself numerous times now and found it really helpful.
Switch off distractions
Tell yourself what you like, but you probably aren’t going to get far creatively if you’re constantly distracted.
To really get in the zone, try:
- switching off your phone
- switching off your music/radio
- switching off any screens
- working somewhere quiet
- clearing your desk
- preparing a drink so you don’t get up halfway through your work flow.
If you really, really can’t concentrate in silence, perhaps pop on a Spotify Focus playlist. But really, be firm with yourself and test whether background noise is something you require to get shit done, or whether you’re using it as an excuse to put off getting into a flow.
Work at your most creative time
Test and monitor yourself. Are you most creative first thing in the morning? In the evening? Right after lunch (unlikely but stranger things have happened I guess)?
Work out your optimal creative time and shift your work schedule to ensure you’re completing cretive work at that time. If you’re continuously trying to make magic happen during the daily afternoon slump, for example, you won’t be turning out your best work and probably burning yourself out a little – the brain can only take so much. Work with it.
For those slump hours in the working day, switch to the more process-driven tasks. These are likely to be more repetative or have steps to follow, therefore better suited to those non-creative periods.
I’m not even going to offer much explanation here, because I know you know this.
Take it instead as a gentle reminder: Doing a tonne of things and once means you do nothing well, and you cut off the superhighways your brain forms to make you perform optimally. One task at a time please, and no more.
A simple one, but one that works for me personally quite a lot.
I work from home much of the time, but home isn’t always my best place to get things done. It took a weirdly long time to come to terms with that, and to shake the guilt about spending money in coffee shops when they were giving me time and space to work.
It’s fine to fluctuate where you produce your best work. If you work from home like me, experiment and choose a couple of budget friendly and wifi generous places nearby you can head to when you have cabin fever.
If you work in an office but the environment is no good for you, head to a coffee shop or local library with a laptop if you’re able. Simply let the boss know where you are and why, and you should be good to go.
Abandon everything and take in something creative
See a show, visit an exhibition, walk around a new park, get crafty, shut yourself in the kitchen and bake… if the pressure to be creative is getting to you, go full tools-down and just get out of your own head for a bit.
It doesn’t much matter what you do to be honest, as long as it’s kind to your soul and you enjoy it. Sometimes you just need to go back to the task at hand when you’ve had a little reset.
Switch to paper
Screens just aren’t good for creativity sometimes, posing a real pain in the arse for inspiration-starved social media managers.
Switch to paper. Invest in a gorgeous writing pen (I refuse just to use any old biro in my notebooks – I’m very fussy!) and some highlighters and just scribble until your brain kicks into gear. Reconnect with that messy process and transfer your work to screen when you feel like you have something genius.
Find a ritual
Once you’ve tested a few different things and found what inspires your creativity, make a ritual of it.
For example, if you’ve found that you work better having been for a short walk, with a herbal tea at your desk, with your phone in another room and a scented candle burning, make a routine of setting all of this up before settling into creative work. Make these the touchpoints that ignite your creative flow, and hold them in unashamedly high regard.
Creativity is not easy to conceive, let alone turn into something tangible. Treasure the process that works for you.
Social media manager wellbeing
Social media manager wellbeing is not something that you should initiate when shit hits the fan. It’s an investment in yourself. All that time you spend not tending to your own needs, replacing that instead with an overstuffed work schedule, is a loan from your future self. Overwork and stress comes back around, and it isn’t kind, so let’s really get your social media manager wellbeing rituals in full swing before any more damage is done.
Eat like the French
Ok, I’ve started on a VERY weird one. But hear me out.
I am a not-so-secret Francophile. I’m obsessed with “The French Way”. My favourite city in the world (besides London) is Paris, and I’m particularly obsessed with delicious, delicate French cooking. Even moreso with how French women are so unequivocally chic, despite being surrounded by all the bread, pastry, wine and buttery dishes on offer.
So much so, in fact, that I started reading about it.
Being a foodie myself, I fast fell in love with the eating advice these ladies dished out.
In line with French tradition, I now try my hardest to:
- make breakfast not only nutritious but also a time of mindfulness and self-care time
- use my favourite cups and crockery, always
- avoid doing one big monthly grocery shop – it does not leave enough leeway for creating meals that are vitamin-packed from fresh fruit and veg
- exercise portion control, which sounds terrible, BUT…
- make myself more than one course at any given mealtime when I can.
The whole concept is about avoiding deprevation, for what is life without the odd edible vice? But about trading off in really simple terms, remedying the treats you enjoy with a leaner meal or extra few steps of exercise. Mireille Guiliano refers to this as “the French Paradox”, and I am obsessed.
Little amounts of many things, fresh food and no cheap fads. Them’s the rules. And they’re rules that make me feel revitalised, energetic and fulfilled – really taking care of that all-important social media manager wellbeing from the depths of my little London kitchen.
Exercise (on your own terms)
I struggle with being prescribed exercise to remedy psychological things, particularly mental health conditions like depression. Because I freak out when I’m too warm or sweaty (two very common anxiety symptoms for me), I find it outrageously hard to find the motivation to get up and do a class or go running. I try, I really do, but I have to be pretty bloody pumped and carefree to do it.
That said, I know full well that it makes all the difference to how I function. And whilst exercising with depression will be an ongoing battle for me, I do try to apply it when I can by taking advantage of those fleeting urges to feel better by doing something other than sitting at my desk. Unsurprisingly, it works.
If you’re resistant to scheduling exercise in because you don’t like it, I give you permission here and now to ditch that effort if it really doesn’t work for you. All that’s going to happen is that you’ll build up anxiety around that calendar slot and spend time worrying about that, rather than getting the exercise done or optimising your mental health.
But what you can do instead is give yourself permission to recognise when you want to give yourself more brain space, and do something about it on the spot.
As in the video above, you can go for a spontaneous walk, you could do some stretches, you could pop to a lunchtime yoga class if that’s your jam. It’s still exercise, but it’s something you haven’t build up feelings around. Just get up and walk around the block without thinking, as a prep for getting stuck into a creative project.
Ditch the planning and exercise according to what your brain requires, rather than what the fitness gurus tell you to do.
I actually learnt about the power of the morning stretch from queen of burlesque and eccentric style, Dita Von Teese.
Check out this hilarious (but very tongue-in-cheek) interview with Dita while she’s nailing a morning pilates class – it’s my favourite.
In her book, The Beauty Mark, she takes you through a routine for each morning that limbers you up, working from the top to the bottom of your body. Now you may not be preparing to dance onstage covered in crystals on an average Tuesday (but if you are let me know where you’re performing, I’ll be there). However the endorphins released from just these simple stretches can kickstart those creative juices and generate seratonin, which you need to feel happy. Spend ten minutes on this each morning and behold the psychological differences.
Get yourself onto YouTube for a welath of stretch routines you can take advantage of at any time of day.
Meditation and mindfulness
Letting life rush past you constantly at 100 miles per hour doesn’t exactly open your mind to the beautiful nuances of the world, and you kind of need those to make you feel like anything is worth doing at all.
If meditation guidances like Headspace or Meditation Oasis aren’t for you (do give them a try though), set out with intention. Intention to walk slowly, intention to notice what you come into contact with every day, intention to think through the moves you make and the actions you take.
A little practice goes a long way when it comes to mindfulness, and can make all the difference to how you feel about life too.
If you have some social media manager wellbeing advice you’d like to add to the table, please do tweet me and offer it up. I’d love to know how you take care of yourself in any of the situations above.
And while we’re here, just remember: Whatever the rogue thoughts may tell you, you are worthy of your success, and you are worthy of self-care. That’s all you need to concentrate on.