Looking after your mental health online
Explains the benefits and challenges to your mental health of being online. Also has information on staying safe online, getting the balance right between your online and offline life, and finding reliable mental health information online.
How can I get a good online/offline balance?
Many of us find being online valuable. But it's important to find a balance between your online and offline life for your mental health and wellbeing. These tips may help:
- Set aside some time regularly to do something offline. This could be reading a book, doing some physical activity, being outdoors in nature or trying out a relaxation technique.
- Protect time in your day to eat healthily and get good sleep. Some studies suggest reducing your time on your phone before bed. This can give you time to unwind before sleeping. And it can improve the quality of your sleep. Our pages on coping with sleep problems have some tips.
- Spend time offline with people in your life, such as friends and family.
- If you're seeking support online, sometimes this won't be enough. If you're feeling unwell, and being online isn't helpful, it may be a good idea to seek offline support.
- Check in with yourself regularly about how you're feeling when you're online. If being online is starting to have a negative impact on your mental health, you may need to take a break.
If I'm feeling unwell or something worries or upsets me, I turn off the laptop for the day.
How do I know if I need a break?
Here are some common signs that you might need to switch off for a while. Or change the way you spend your time online:
- You're having fewer face-to-face conversations with your friends and family
- You're feeling disconnected from those closest to you
- Being online is preventing you from getting other things done in the offline world
- You're constantly comparing yourself with others online
- You're anxious at the thought of being online
- You're finding it hard to think about and enjoy other things
- You're finding it overwhelming
Getting sober from social media
Before, I was very preoccupied with how my life appeared from the outside looking in. These days I try to focus on reality rather than the virtual world.
What can I do to help me switch off?
Switching off isn't always easy. But some studies suggest that breaks from being online and social media can positively affect our mental health. If you find it hard to switch off but would like to take a break from being online, try these tips:
- Switch on the "do not disturb mode" on your phone so you won't receive notifications from apps, text messages or phone calls. Some phones also have a bedtime mode. This means you can darken your screen and limit interruptions just before bed.
- Switch off notification sounds so it's easier to ignore notifications from apps and text messages.
- Use an app that helps you monitor and manage your phone use, including letting you restrict your app use.
- Try to think carefully about your online feeds. Delete apps if you find they're making your mental health worse. Or unfollow people or accounts that don't make you feel good.
- If you feel able to, put your mobile phone or other device in another room or somewhere else out of sight.
- Try switching off your computer, phone and any other mobile devices for a while, so you aren't tempted to check in online. Let a family member or close friend know you’re doing this if you're worried about how they'd contact you in an emergency.
- If you have a computer, only sign into your accounts on there. That way, you won't be tempted to check them on your phone all the time.
This information was published in July 2023. We will revise it in 2026.
References and bibliography available on request.
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