Since the beginning of lockdown, we’ve all had to adapt to a new way of working, studying and living. Zoom has been our go-to-application for meetings, classes and business calls to continue. It has allowed us to see and connect with our friends and family. Allowed us to work on shared documents together, and give presentations. There’s no denying that this technology has helped many individuals and organisations to survive and carry on in their objectives. One drawback from this is the undeniable increase in all of our screen times.
Here today, I wanted to discuss some of the potential consequences this increase can have on our productivity and wellbeing, as well as some strategies to mitigate these consequences.
Healthy, deep sleep is how our bodies heal themselves. Studies have shown that screen time disrupts sleep and our body clocks. Using a screen immediately before bed (or in bed) hinders your body’s melatonin release, which makes for a more difficult time going to sleep and affects the quality of that sleep.
Our social gatherings and connections have turned into daily mix of video conferencing and social media online. Maybe you’ve felt exhausted or had difficulty concentrating after an extended Zoom group session or have felt a bit “zoomed out” on occasion. Well, it turns out “Zoom Fatigue” is a real thing.
So what can you do about it? Here are some strategies that can prevent overstimulation from screen time.
1. Read a couple of pages from your favourite books! This may seem like the obvious choice, but why not. It is a great way to spend quality time on your balcony or in your favourite chair without scrolling through your phone.
Have you finished reading all of your favourite books? Take this time to read all of those books that have been gathering dust on your shelves or pick up some new favourites. Not just books, also read a magazine, or something similar that does not have a screen – I laugh with my kids about how I spent most of my childhood reading the backs of cereal packets at breakfast time rather than watching TV or looking at a phone screen.
2. While it is important to keep yourself informed of what is happening in the world today, we can easily find ourselves falling for hoaxes, half-truths and misinformation. Though you can check the news daily to keep abreast of important guidelines and developments (for example), but try to limit yourself to how much you intake every day.
Consider reading a newspaper instead of getting news online. This will allow you to stay up to date with the most important issues without having to spend too much time online. Or just grab the main headlines briefly and decide if it is really important to read further into the main stories that day.
3. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks! You can put on audiobooks when cleaning your home, having a walk or working out. Not only do they keep you super entertained, but also allow you to have your hands and eyes free to focus on other things.
You can also listen to music! Many of us always have music playing in the background, but when was the last time you really took the time to listen to music and do nothing else?
4. Leave your phone at home! We tend to be so used to taking our phones with us everywhere we go, even if it’s just around the corner to the bakery – why not try leaving it at home? Try to leave your phone at home and it will make you feel a lot more relaxed and at ease. Then you don’t have the temptation of looking at your phone when you could be enjoying the scenery.
5. Call someone over the phone to actually speak to them! Are you planning to chat with a friend or a loved one? Why not give a good old-fashioned phone call a try. Being able to video chat with someone is of course amazing, but every once in a while it is nice to just be on the phone with someone. This means you don’t constantly have to worry about the connection, the lighting, what angle your camera is facing, if you remembered to put on pants that morning, etc. You can focus solely on the conversation and this can help make your conversations more enjoyable and meaningful.
Read this article for more on this topic: How to have more meaningful conversations.
6. Establish technology free times or zones! If you are eating a meal alone, it can be very tempting to put on your favourite show to zone out to while eating – try listening to some music instead and really focus on your meal you have in front of you. This allows you to appreciate the food you have prepared even more and puts you more in tune with what you are eating. Another idea could be to establish a technology free zone in your home. Maybe try to not look at your phone while in bed, or try experimenting with a phone/tablet/laptop ban in your kitchen or living room.
You could even have a full blown digital detox, read this article for more on that topic: Why you need a digital detox and how to have one.
7. Find pleasure in nature! Mange some time to get into a long evening or morning walk. Studies have shown exposure to trees and nature to have a calming affect on us, increase life expectancy, combat depression and leave us feeling restored.
“We tend to block off many of our senses when we’re staring at a screen. Nature time can literally bring us to our senses.” – Richard Louv
8. Try to find the time for some regular, vigorous exercise. While screen time reduces brain connectivity and resulting creativity, exercise has been shown to do the exact opposite- increasing brain plasticity and dendrite growth. Feel good hormones like endorphins are a wonderful bonus!
9. Start a DIY project! Have you always wanted to paint that Ikea bookshelf in your room? Are you ready for some new curtains for your bedroom? Are all of the cables lying around your house driving you crazy? Now is a great time to work on all those little home improvement projects that you have been pushing aside. Some of these things (like organising that junk drawer in your kitchen) maybe don’t sound super exciting, but nothing beats the satisfaction of being able to tick something like that off of your to-do list!
10. Helpful apps! If all else fails, there are some handy apps which can track your screen time and which can even put a limit on how long you can use a certain app. Lots of phones have such screen usage systems already built into their systems and if you check out the app store there are plenty of other options as well.
“Sometimes you have to disconnect to stay connected. Remember the old days when you had eye contact during a conversation? When everyone wasn’t looking down at a device in their hands? We’ve become so focused on that tiny screen that we forget the big picture, the people right in front of us.” – Regina Brett
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