As we all spend more time at home during the pandemic, we’ve all become more dependent on digital technology to live our lives. Whether you’re working, going to school, checking in with family across the country, or even exercising, chances are you’re doing all of it on a screen. While technology has become an essential and valuable tool during this time, the need for focus, sleep, and boundaries between work and home life have never been more important to your mental and physical health.
Here are five mindful tips to maintain your digital wellbeing while we’re all stuck living our lives from a screen.
1. Focus on one device and task at a time
As every aspect of our lives converges onto one digital platform, establishing methods that help us stay focused and in the zone are even more essential. When you’re working at home, try putting your phone out of sight and only focus on your laptop, only have one window open at a time to focus on the task at hand, and try moving distracting apps from your desktop, only keeping work-related programs visible.
2. Use technology to regain a healthy sense of control over your environment
Although we might feel completely out of control in the face of a pandemic, you can actually learn to use technology to regain a sense of control and autonomy over your environment at home. Because having a sense of control over your life has been demonstrated to be essential to emotional wellbeing, it’s important to find simple ways to take back control of your environment. This might include making plans for the future in your google calendar, managing to-do lists or schedules through an app like Trello etc. The key here is to use technology actively instead of just passively scrolling a newsfeed.
3. Use technology to nurture relationships
Social connections and interactions have been important to humans for thousands of years. From city dwellers to rural residents, introverts to extroverts, we all value a sense of love and belonging and dozens of studies have shown support for claims that connection allows for increased levels of happiness and lesser levels of health problems. The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education of Stanford (CCARE) mentions multiple benefits including increased chances for longevity, a stronger immune system, and quicker recovery from disease. Further pointing out that when you feel connected we also feel lower levels of anxiety and depression, a higher self-esteem and greater empathy. Because of this, it’s imperative we find new digital ways to nurture our social support systems to curb the effects of social isolation on our mental health.
Here are some ways you can use technology to nurture your relationships right now:
- Start the day with friends and coffee or host an end-of-the-day happy hour
- Join a virtual watch party of a movie or show
- Schedule regular zoom chats with your friends and family to share positive news, express gratitude and help others
- Get the app Houseparty and schedule parties with your friends where you can all play the same game
- Read grandkids a bedtime story
Seeing a friendly face, even virtually, can reassure and remind us of our social support system during a time when we can’t physically be with people.
4. Monitor Zoom Fatigue
Although all of this face-time with your colleagues, family and friends can be a great way to stay connected, it can also sometimes become overwhelming. Zoom fatigue is a real thing and it may seem ridiculous at first- Why do I feel so exhausted after a few hours of zooming when I’m not actually zooming around or doing anything except sitting and staring at a screen? If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the crossing over of all of your worlds into one technological platform that’s completely normal and this article can help you understand why that is and how to navigate it in the best way for you. In summary, because video conferencing takes more mental energy than a face-to-face chat, turning off your camera sometimes and having your screen off to the side, instead of straight ahead, could help your concentration and ease some of the zoom fatigue you may be experiencing.
“Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. “-Gianpiero Petriglieri
5. Maintain Sleep & Exercise Time
Scheduling time away from your screen is probably the most important thing you can do right now, although it might seem impossible at times. Setting time limits on apps, blocking out time in your calendar to exercise, establishing device-free times and rooms in your home and putting screens away an hour before bed to reduce blue light exposure are all great ways to maintain you and your family’s sacred time and sanity. You can also take advantage of mindfulness and exercise apps that give you notifications or reminders throughout the day to stand more, move more or take a few deep breaths.
By keeping these mindful tips in mind, you can learn to use technology to benefit your wellbeing rather than hurt it. Although relying on a screen for everything isn’t ideal, there are ways you can monitor and control it so it doesn’t completely take over your life. Like everything, a healthy dose of self-awareness and scheduled time off is key.