We’re always on, and we need to switch off

Posted by: NHS Horizons - Posted on:

Originally published by Leigh Kendall – 7th December 2018

How many hours do you spend in front of a computer, or checking your phone?

Since a recent update my iPhone has been giving me a weekly record of how long I spend staring at it. I’m aware I spend quite a lot of time on my phone so while the data wasn’t a surprise, seeing the number reinforced just how reliant I am on technology.

As a communications professional, a lot of time is spent not only on emails but on social media too. The nature of my role means that I am constantly on the lookout for interesting content to read – to spark inspiration and ideas for myself – and to share for the benefit of others.

We all know that spending too long online isn’t good for us (physically, with being inactive) or mentally (stress, burnout).

Digital life is part of life for many people of any age – we’re ‘always on’, whether it’s being available via mobile phone wherever you are, emails, social media, notifications pinging at all hours…

This sketchnote by Sarah Brooke illustrates these points. Being in my forties I am long past being classed as a ‘young person’ but it’s relevant to us all, of any age.

Of course, there are many positives to the digital world, as I can personally attest; this will be the topic of a future post. That said, I know that being ‘always on’ can affect my wellbeing. 

I live with a long-term mental health condition – I know myself well enough to know what will help me, and what I need to keep away from. When I need to switch off, and have a bit of a digital detox.

I try to stay away from Twitter at weekends, and to not look at it after a certain time at night. Instead, I get out for walks or runs to refresh my brain. I’ll read a book, or indulge in a Netflix film or series when my legs need a rest, too.

Know yourself, and when you need to take a break. If you’re feeling harassed by social media, turn off your notifications. 

And remember that staring at a screen hoping for inspiration to strike can be counterproductive. I know that while I convey my ideas via various technology methods, I get many of my best ideas when I’m away from it. Taking time for a short walk, going for a run, can be restorative. For me, it gives all the ideas in my head the opportunity to percolate, and I get a bit of space to find solutions to problems. 

What do you do to recharge?

At the end of the day, all of us have the urge to while away time flicking through a magazine, walking around the block, or simply doing nothing. We should embrace these moments, and see them as what they are: time well spent.