Is it just my observation or are people getting increasingly annoying? I’ve asked myself this question lately after a string of socially irritating situations, the most recent of which involved my neighbor deciding to trespass on and vandalize my property. I came outside one morning to find her chopping the tops off my cedars, without my permission. When I calmly and politely asked her to stop she stormed off like a petulant child, refusing to discuss the situation.
After this and several other social irritations, I told my husband, “What I really need is a social detox” to reduce the number and frequency of irritating or stressful social encounters. There must be a lot of people out there, particularly as the planet becomes increasingly crowded, who are feeling the same way.
Actually, overcrowding is a mechanism employed by scientists who conduct studies to assess the effects of social stresses. In one study published in the medical journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, researchers found that unpredictable, mild, chronic stress linked to overcrowding was sufficient to alter gene expression and increase the amount of fat hoarding in the body. That made me wonder, “just how much of our obesity problem might be linked to our growing overpopulation?”
Another overcrowding study among mice ended in social hierarchies, violence and ultimately, extinction. But regardless of the outcomes for mice, I think most people would agree that social stress is a real and growing problem in our society.
Ways to Give Yourself a Social Detox
While a cabin in the middle of the woods sounds great right about now, going into full social isolation may not be possible. And, for me, it might actually be more stressful as I wonder what my property might look like upon my return. Joking aside, here are some ways to give yourself a social detox:
1. Turn off your cellphone, tablet and other electronic devices whenever possible to give yourself a break from social interactions.
2. Honor your need for peace and quiet. If you need to spend time alone or with your significant other for a whole day, weekend, or week, then go for it.
3. Give yourself a break from social media for as long as you need. While Facebook, Twitter and other services enable us to keep in touch, sometimes it can be excessive.
4. If you live in a busy city or town, head to the nearest park or woods to give yourself a “nature fix.” Research shows that spending time in nature helps boost our mood and gives us that much-needed break from people.
5. List all of the social stresses you are currently experiencing. Sometimes seeing them in writing can help give insights into ways to address or eliminate them altogether.
6. Sometimes, as hard as it may be, we may simply need to let certain social connections go by the wayside. Obviously that is not possible for every social situation, but some, particularly emotionally or physically abusive ones, may demand it.
7. Head to a quiet spot in your home where you can get away from it all. That might be a bedroom, a bathroom complete with bubble bath, or somewhere else you consider a private sanctuary.
8. If you have a backyard or rooftop garden, maybe spend a little time alone in that space to help clear your mind and ease some tensions.
9. If you have kids and just need a short break, hire a babysitter so you can spend even a small amount of time in your own company.
Social detox requires taking matters into your own hands. As for my vandal-neighbor she is well aware that her law-breaking activities will not be tolerated.