Break from Spring Anxiety

Counseling services: Individual, Couples, Family, Marriage, Group Counseling

It’s that time of year again. As winter melts away and cherry blossoms hint at their arrival, we New Yorkers pack up our puffer coats and roll out the picnic blankets. We begin counting the days until we can step outside to the feeling of sunshine on our bare arms and legs. Spring brings us back into bodies and our physical senses.

For many, this seasonal transition can bring up feelings of vulnerability. Our bodies have been cocooned for months and shedding those physical and metaphorical layers can be anxiety inducing. These feelings of uncertainty are compounded by messages suggesting that our bodies are unprepared for the social context to come. As your social media feed starts filling up with attractive people having fun on the town together, you are barraged with advertisements offering spring fitness specials, spray tans and fat sculpting services. These messages offer a convenient “answer” to the uneasy question of why you aren’t having as much fun mixing and mingling as everyone else. It’s your inferior body that’s holding you back, obviously.

While misguided, this idea is seductive in its simplicity. The cause of anxiety is complex and different for everyone, but when we’re hurting we instinctively reach for something we can fix right now. Our body can be an easy scapegoat for the deeper cause of our discomfort. Focusing our attention there can give us a false sense of control. But no matter how much we tone, smooth and glow up our physical selves, it will never be enough if we don’t address the emotional and behavioral roots of our anxiety.

In the immediate, reducing social media use is an important step towards easing your distress. Ample research has linked social media to increased anxiety, depression, self-objectification, social comparison and body insecurity. The exposure to false, idealized versions of bodies and lifestyles enhances feelings of inadequacy, and in turn, we feel compelled to share idealized versions of ourselves. In doing so we reinforce a belief that who we really are is not enough.

A divide between our ideal and true selves inevitably leads to emotional turmoil. While we know social media agitates the problem, for most people this self-alienation didn’t start online. Psychotherapy provides an opportunity to explore the deeper roots of social anxiety and body negativity and a chance to work through them for lasting relief.

Written by Rebecca Morehiser, MSW-I