Wellbeing

10 Signs You Need a Break From Tech

With more of us working from home, taking steps to strike a healthy screen/ life balance is key to boosting our overall wellbeing. Not sure how you fair? Take this quiz, compiled by digital self-care pro Katie Brockhurst, to find out if it’s time to hit refresh…

1. How often do you pick your phone up to check it?

a. Only when I really need to use it, which is mostly for phone calls

b. I pick it up for something every five to 10 minutes

c. I think every couple of hours or so

2. Do you get lost in an endless scroll?

a. Scrolling isn’t my thing, I prefer to read a book

b. That’s me pretty much every time I use social media or the internet on my phone

c. Sometimes yes, but mostly in the evenings or on a tea break

3. Are you aware of how much time you spend on your phone every day?

a. I use an app that stops me spending more than an hour on it a day

b. No, I’m not sure, but I know I’m on it a lot

c. Yes, I use Screen Time to check and usage varies depending on my mood

4. Do you grab your phone first thing in the morning?

a. No, I prefer to meditate

b. Yes, and sometimes in the middle of the night too

c. I usually check my phone within the first hour of waking up

5. Do you look at screens right before bedtime?

a. No, I do something relaxing like reading or taking a bath before going to sleep

b. Yes, Netflix and Instagram are my bedtime buddies

c. Most nights, yes, but sometimes I switch off early

6. Are you sleeping properly?

a. Yes, I get a good eight hours of undisturbed sleep a night

b. I measure how much sleep I’m getting

c. I delay going to bed and spend time online in the evenings

7. Does screen time affect you physically?

a. Sometimes I notice my posture could be better and I have to take a good stretch

b. Yes, I tighten up and clench my jaw a lot when I’m looking at the screen

c. My eyes get tired when I’m on screens a lot and I get headaches sometimes, too

8. Do you have your notifications switched on or off?

a. Most definitely off. My phone is mostly on silent mode, too

b. No, what if I miss a message or something?

c. For some apps like Facebook, yes, but not WhatsApp or email

9. How do you feel when you’re on social media?

a. Pretty good, I just go on there to check in on friends

b. Sometimes I’m buzzed up, but mostly I feel anxious and overwhelmed

c. Connected but confused, I have a love-hate relationship with it

10. Do you get involved in online debates with strangers?

a. No, never, I steer clear of having conversations online

b. Yes, I’m always sharing my opinions with others. Troll or be trolled is my motto!

c. Sometimes I get sucked into something I’m passionate about, but I often regret it

Now count up your scores to see your results

If you ticked mostly As…

Wow, good work, I’m impressed! You’re living a life mostly free from digital distraction and have prioritised your wellbeing in a way that many of us aspire to. Stay on track and keep leading the way for the rest of us! You seem to have a very healthy and balanced relationship with technology as far as I can see, and you only use it when you need to without letting it completely rule your downtime.

If you ticked mostly Bs…

You’ve got it bad. But that is absolutely not your fault. These devices and apps are designed to steal your time and attention, and some of us are more susceptible to their tricks than others. However, finding a better balance is key now, because you’re showing signs of compulsive digital behaviour, which can ultimately impact on your health and wellbeing. I highly recommend you take a digital detox.

If you ticked mostly Cs…

I can see that you’re struggling to get the balance right, but at least you’re aware of the negative impact too much screen time can have on your wellbeing. I would recommend trying some of the ideas below in the plan to see how they work for you on a daily basis, plus adopting a good self-care routine that includes a oneweek digital detox.

The digital detox plan

The first step is understanding why you need a digital detox. We all know we probably should spend less time mindlessly scrolling online, but do we really understand the science behind it? For example, did you know that long-term studies now show high amounts of screen time can negatively affect our attention, memory and creativity? Plus, our digital habits create little hits of dopamine (the reward hormone), which, with high use, can turn into cortisol (the stress hormone).

This is one of the many reasons too much screen time can leave us feeling anxious and exhausted.

But a digital detox isn’t about abstaining completely: it’s about giving your brain a chance to reset, restore and rejuvenate. I recommend integrating some of the following steps to form a general digital wellbeing routine and maintain the benefits of a complete detox.

1. First things first: no phones or screens in the bedroom. If you use your phone to wake up, buy an alarm clock. Leave your phone downstairs on charge overnight – not on the bedside table. No TV in the bedroom, either.\

2. Next up, commit to a certain amount of screen time per day – you know what would be an improvement for you. I’d suggest reducing it to a couple of hours of use or less each day, if possible. Obviously that will depend on if you need to use it for work, but getting this down as much as possible is good in the longterm. There are tools to help you with this, too: the iPhone’s Screen Time app has a function called Time Limit, which you can use to set a maximum daily usage on certain apps or your phone as a whole. This is super-effective for reducing screen time. Android phones, meanwhile, have the Digital Wellbeing app, which offers the same tool.

3. No screens for at least 90 minutes before bed, but ideally two hours. And the same rule applies in the morning. If you can stay offline for the first couple of hours of the day, you will be amazed at the difference to your mindset.

4. Delete social media apps. I found this was the best way to get me out of that “tap, tap, open” cycle I was stuck in. You know the refresh feed? That is based on the same action as a slot machine and it’s why social media apps can be as addictive as gambling for some people.

5. Go outside in nature every day – without your phone. Research has found that just 10 minutes outside restores our attention span and helps the brain to reduce information overload.

6. Schedule one day a week to be completely device-free (yes, including your phone). Over time, you’ll notice how peaceful these days feel and it will become easier to switch off. Give it a try – your brain and your body will thank you!

Health & Wellbeing