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The risks of digital fatigue and prioritizing your psychological well being

November
3, 2020

6 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

Our lived experience, by and large, is now happening with a screen in front of us. As a global society shaped by similar difficulties and technologies, we are now getting married, celebrating birthdays, and doing business with the help of a device that never seems to leave our periphery.

This is clearly not normal and the possible long-term effects of our digitally globalized planet have yet to be fully explored.

There used to be a clear demarcation between work and private life. However, due to a microscopic parasite that is 10,000 times smaller than a grain of salt, it no longer exists. Due to the nature of remote working, any day can become a working day if we allow it. We can work after lunch and dinner and during the quiet hours of the night while dodging the constant onslaught of daily notifications and reminders about the accessories in our pockets.

The end of a work day can leave us feeling physically and mentally exhausted, even though we were wearing probably the most comfortable (and professionally accepted) outfit we have in the coziness of our living space.

And now, not only do the work assignments fill out our daily calendar, but the kids, our dog, our spouse, and any other real-life chores when work is at home, too.

Related: Why Your Mental Health Is Key To Your Business

This daily feedback loop of information overload carries the very dangerous risk of digital mental exhaustion.

This digital fatigue can lead to lack of energy, mental clarity and burnout and have negative psychological and physical effects on our overall well-being – let alone on our work performance. But it's not just about our own mental health. It becomes more and more difficult to notice when a colleague is having problems as our only way of communicating is by video conference.

The CDC recently reported that a third of Americans have shown clinical signs of anxiety, depression, or both since the pandemic began. Does anyone think we should live in a world where every third person we walk past shows signs of clinical disease? Or is it worth researching new ways to fight madness? And how do we find the balance between adopting a digital corporate culture to meet business expectations while promoting our sanity? Here are four daily habits that you should adopt.

Take your time

Every day is a balance between screen time and time for me so we all need to get our heart rate checks on a regular basis. It now takes a conscious intention to move away from a digital screen.

My advice is to schedule mental health breaks and add them to your calendar like a meeting. It's one thing to take a 15-minute break from mindlessly scrolling through your device, but it's important that you give yourself a chance to free up space and disconnect.

Disconnecting electronic devices is the only way to reconnect with yourself. I suggest setting an actual timer. That way, you can allow your mind to rest or wander. Get up, get some fresh air and go for a walk. Do whatever stops you from staring at a screen.

Even briefly closing your eyes can bring clarity and energy, which will only make your day-to-day tasks more efficient. A PubMed study of napping found that a 30-minute nap gives the body enough time to enter a deep (slow-wave) sleep, which improves alertness and memory.

When you see the break notification, note the allotted time and acknowledge that life is more than work, even if it's only for a few moments.

Related: Startup founders can't afford to ignore mental health

Set your limits

We are all professionals. We still have service to our customers, but feeling exhausted all the time is not good for business. It is time to set clear boundaries and make sure all necessary parties are aware of this. You can start by stopping meetings after a certain time of day during the week and saying no to calls at the weekend. Set up your schedule as best you can to serve the day you want. Even mark your public hours of operation (i.e. when you review and respond to inquiries) in your email signature.

Creating deliberate days for deep work assignments can also help you find more flow in your life, which enables you to be sustainable in productivity and creativity and is a key to unlocking your greatest potential.

Know the signs

Based on a Cigna report, three in five adults (61 percent) say they are lonely, up seven percentage points from 2018.

Not only do we all work alone from our own island, but our world is also facing the greatest existential crisis in the last 100 years. It's okay to feel wrong. And because of the information overload, the signs of digital fatigue can cause seemingly unrelated symptoms.

A common symptom is fragmentation of your mind. We're in an endless parade of Zoom meetings, FaceTime calls, and email responses. Too much back and forth between tasks can leave you feeling mentally disjointed and scared. Too much fear in the emotional diet can lead to a lack of temperament, hasty decisions and excessive demands. But there are more than just emotional signs.

It didn't take a pandemic to know that posture should always be paramount. Physical discomfort can quickly lead to emotional pain. Let's say we don't pay attention to posture all day. When this happens, it is all too common that we experience pain in the neck, head, eyes, tailbone, hands and feet from prolonged periods of sitting or standing.

If these symptoms creep into your life, it's time to readjust yourself.

Related: The Best Place to Support Mental Health? The workplace

What is at stake

Our world is in a transition phase. We're starting together to redefine how to do business that focuses on people's wellbeing as well as profit.

The existence of an 8 to 5 work day is all but extinct, so we need to have real conversations about how things should change. What this change will look like in full is far from certain. One thing is certain, however: real change starts from within.

As a fully digitized and globalized civilization, it is clear that our world requires change. We have reached a crisis where our emotional supply chain must be our only essential business. Each of us needs our part. It is not only our right to live the fullest possible life, but also our responsibility to others. Adopting these habits could fundamentally change the way our world works.

Share this with a coworker and let them know it is okay to get in touch when they start dealing with digital fatigue. They'll likely expand the offerings if you need them too.

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