This week we talk mental health, digital burn-out and ways to switch off without feeling guilty.
Some of you will be filled with anxiety just reading this and imagining a day, even an hour, without your phone!
But every healthy relationship needs a little you time, and your relationship with digital technology is no different.
Just to be clear, we’re not advocating a ‘smash up your phone, burn the laptop and lock yourself in a bunker’ kinda weekend. But then again, if it works for you…
This is more about creating and managing a healthy balance in our rapidly evolving digital realties.
Digital technologies have done so much to transform and revolutionise every facet of our lives, but it is overwhelming. Whereas before you may only have been digital outside the office, digital transformations in the workplace make technologies a must rather than an option.
Between emails, messages, social media and other app notifications, calls and conferences on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Skype, it can get very overwhelming.
And the situation has become even more acute since Covid darkened our doors. Activities to which we would normally turn to help us digitally detox have now been forced into the virtual realm. Gym sessions, Sunday morning yoga with the gang, even Saturday night drinks with friends have invariably become Zoom quizzes and other weird and wonderful online variations.
The result? Burn out, anxiety, screen fatigue and a lack of creative energy.
How can you be innovative, agile and focussed at work if you are emotionally and physically drained and anxiety-ridden because of the perceived need to be ‘always on’?
So, it’s a no brainer. We need to learn to manage the stress and fatigue that go hand-in-hand with constant connectivity.
The reality is that lots of us are afraid to disconnect for any length of time in case it causes issues at work, right? You think your boss will presume you’re lazy or unreliable, or that you’ll miss an important update.
Regular unplugging and mindful digital usage will make you more productive at work as they’ll improve your mental health, attention span and overall creative energy.
This isn’t a dissing on digital sermon. Quite the contrary as it’s important to remember that, thanks to digital, we have the option of moving all our much-loved activities online and turning to online tools to manage the stress.
But it’s equally important to recognise that in the midst of all the other madness 2020 has thrown at us, it’s more vital than ever that we look after our mental health by regularly unplugging to recharge.
A digital detox by its most rigid definition would actually mean switching off your connected devices for a set period of time and going cold turkey. There are even digital detox retreats where you pay to be detached from your devices for a weekend or longer and, in their absence, focus on regenerative mind and body exercises.
While an absolute detox might work for some, and actually be necessary depending on the level of stress and addiction, a more realistic long-term solution would be learning to be the master of your personal connectivity.
How could you possibly ditch your phone completely when it doubles up as your alarm clock, TV, calendar, wallet, nutrition tracker… the list is endless.
Like we’ve been preaching for the past few weeks, digital transformation is all about making things easier. So, our task is to ensure we use the tools at our disposal in a way that benefits rather than harms us.
Luckily, we’ve got some top tips on how to do just that and, as ironic as it may seem, some of the best digital tools you can use to create a healthy balance.
The Starting Point:
Set Boundaries: It’s OK to set defined boundaries between work life and homelife, especially when home for so many has become their COVID office. Obviously, it’s not possible for everyone just to switch off their phone and hide under the bed for a week, but maybe decide that your phone and laptop are out of bounds from a certain time each night and at certain times on the weekend. You could even set a quirky automatic reply like: “I’m digitally detoxing but if it’s urgent, give me a call.”
Digital Declutter: Remove apps you don’t often use. Unsubscribe from email newsletters and marketing updates which cause needless distractions and manage your apps so you only receive the push notifications you really want. And while you’re at it, how about deleting and unfollowing people you don’t actually interact with on social media? It’s all just unnecessary noise.
Create Digital-Free Zones: While constant connectivity has many benefits, it can lead to stress, burn-out and an obsession with constantly checking your phone. How many times have you asked a restaurant waiter for the Wifi code before asking for the menu, or broke out in a cold sweat on a flight wondering who might be messaging you?? Our advice would be to create a list of activities during which you will be strictly offline, for example while exercising, during mealtimes, in bed? Airplane Mode is a fantastic way to still be able to use your phone for things you love like music, audio books and podcasts, without the fear of unwanted emails and messages.
Cold Turkey: This option is not for the faint-hearted but if you think you’re brave enough, how about designating a device-free day or half day each week and completely unplugging? What’s the worst that can happen?? Take back control by creating a set-in-stone period each week when you are completely analogue and use the time to destress and declutter your mind.
And before you ask, digital wellbeing has nothing to do with your phone’s battery life or the spec of your new laptop. It’s all about using digital tools to help boost your physical and mental health.
Our digital addictedness is so serious that a scientific term has actually been coined to describe it: Nomophobia, the fear of being without a mobile device, or beyond mobile phone contact.
But if you want to swap FOMO (fear of missing out) for JOMO (joy of missing out), here are a few handy tools.
Meditation Apps: These can be some of the most valuable apps on your phone as they help create healthy habits. We’re not telling you to go vegan and join a commune. Just maybe devote 10 minutes a day to being present. There are lots of options, but popular apps include Headspace, which is paid for, and Calm, which is free.
Time Management Apps: We’re all experts on the apps that make us skinnier and prettier, but what about those designed to pamper our minds? Apps like Freedom allow you to temporarily block apps and websites that distract you, allowing you to focus on other projects or life outside of your screen. Digitox will help you understand your digital habits and will set usage limits for selected apps. What’s not to like?
Gratitude Journal & Virtual Vision Board Apps: Don’t knock them until you’ve tried them. Apps like Gratitude and Presently, or Vision Board can be healthy distractions in an increasingly hectic world where we sometimes lose touch with what actually matters. It can also be very motivating to set yourself career goals and manifest them.
Nutrition Apps: You might be wondering why we’ve included this one but tracking what you eat and how much water you drink are very important because eating good foods and staying hydrated helps you stay focused and energised. And that will increase your productivity and brain function. Employee of the month anyone?!
Digital Canteen: This one seems ironic in the context of less video calls and screen time but as we said, this article is more about creating healthy digital habits and ones which enrich your life. So, this idea is one we encourage you all to try while working from home. Schedule virtual coffee and lunch breaks with your colleagues and tuck into your sandwich and have a chat, just like you would at the office.
We hope you enjoyed this week’s article. Let us know in the comments if you try any of our top tips or if you have any favourite detox ideas that we missed.
Written by Alana Fearon