3 Signs You May Have Digital Burnout

One of the major consequences of the lockdowns over the last year has been huge rise in time spent on screens and digital devices. According to a survey conducted by Ofcom at the height of 2020’s first lockdown, our collective screen time is an all-time high, with UK adults spending on average 4 hours a day online. According to the study, twice as many used video calls to keep in touch during lockdown, while Zoom, the virtual meeting platform, grew its reach to 13 million UK adults in the same period of January to April, a rise of almost 2,000%. While that tells us just how important these communication tools are to us as a society, it means more of us than ever are exposed to the potentially damaging effects of such digital dependence. While for most of us, time spent in front of our screens is non-negotiable, especially as we navigate our way through a post-pandemic world, there are ways to lessen the impact of excess screen time. If you’re feeling anxious, exhausted and irritable, chances are you may be experiencing digital fatigue. Read on to discover more and ways to reduce its impact on your life…

Your eyes feel strained

Staring at a screen for hours at a time can have serious impact on the health of our eyes, leading to blurred vision, headaches and often neck and shoulder pain. We usually blink between 10-15 times a minute when we’re not using screens, but research has shown that we blink on average 6-8 times less in a minute when we are in front of our devices. The result? Drier, less lubricated eyes which can feel easily irritated, and less chance to flush out unwanted bacteria and dust. Blinking also helps nourish the cornea meaning overall eye health is often compromised with excess screen time.

You have lower energy levels

Reduced energy levels are likely down to irregular or broken sleep caused by spending more time on devices. When we’re in front of screens we’re exposed to the blue light they emit, something which is known to suppress the essential sleep hormone melatonin. Not only is this bad news in general, it’s worse when you consider how much we scroll at bedtime especially. Poor sleep can also lead to a raft of issues including a weakened immune system so don't underestimate the serious impact that bedtime phone session can have.

You lack focus

Stress in all forms causes us to physically narrow our focus in order that we can better home in on a potential threat, whether it’s a lion about to attack as in primeval days or an unwelcome email pinging into our inbox. While this narrowing of focus is fine in small doses, when it becomes constant it begins to impact our stress levels and send our cortisol levels soaring. As a result, you might find yourself feeling foggy, irritable and unable to focus properly.

Sound familiar? If that’s you, read on to discover the best ways to reduce digital burnout…

Set usage limits

Especially important before bed so that it doesn’t impact your sleep, setting boundaries around how much access you have to screens is vital. Set a timer if you think it’ll be hard to discipline yourself and be strict about making use of your non-digital time in a way that benefits your wellbeing.

Opt out of what isn’t necessary

Our constant access to all things digital, including endless social networks means that we’re bombarded with alerts on an hourly basis. By reducing the amount of unnecessary notifications you’ll quickly start to reduce your digital interaction, so be ruthless and make that cull.

Take regular breaks away from your screen

Making an effort to step away from your screen for regular 20 minutes is vital for your mental and physical health and wellbeing. The American Optometric Association recommends a 20-20-20 rule whereby you take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. Switching your gaze from the kind of narrow focus vision you experience at your computer screen to panoramic vision instead (ie looking at something like a horizon) actually decreases the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and encourages our bodies to enter the parasympathetic nervous system instead.

Move more

The benefits of exercise are no secret but keeping your body moving as much as possible is of utmost importance when you’re used to being sedentary. Not only will it give you the mental break you need, it will help improve lymph flow, engage your muscles and improve your skeletal health which can so often be compromised when sitting at a desk. If you can do your moving outside in the fresh air, even better. Increasing your exposure to fresh oxygen not only triggers the production of serotonin in your system, being in the fresh air you provides better clarity to the brain, promoting optimal function and enabling you to think and focus more easily.