Digital burnouts: they’re a thing. Our lives are becoming more and more reliant on technology; you don’t have to be an Instagram junkie or a game guru to find yourself over-consuming. The pressures of work are placing incessant demand on the use of devices, and in short – our brains can’t handle it all.
What is a burn out?
Essentially, burnouts result from a period of immense strain or pressure. Imagine your body trying to run a marathon every day on just a banana – you’d collapse, wouldn’t you? The same thing happens in our brains when we indulge in too many screen hours, and the results can impact on your work and personal life, and even induce anxiety and depression.
The connectedness of our lifestyles leaves us in a state of constant multi-tasking. Our brains struggle to switch off, and we get caught in a dopamine-adrenaline cycle of non-stop ‘availability’.
How do you know you’re burning out?
The biggest symptom of digital burnout is difficulty sleeping – often cited as an inability to ‘switch off’. This leads us into a vicious cycle. We go to bed, minds boggling and unable to sleep, so we reach for our smartphones for one last episode of whatever the current Netflix trend is, accidentally check our emails, begin stressing about work disasters that haven’t even happened yet, and scroll through the societal pressure tank that is Instagram. When we do drift off, our last sight of the day is a backlit screen dispensing more digital media. We wake groggy the next morning, and thus the ‘always on’ cycle continues again.
This lack of reprieve can lead to irritability, headaches, vision problems, fatigue and even neck strain from the physical act of tech consumption.
How can you stop burning out?
You’re probably consuming more tech than you realise. The first step to recovering from – or preventing – digital burnout is to take stock of your digital dependence. Sit down and do a little audit of your reliance on technology – and hey, try writing it on paper rather than the notes section of your iPhone (studies show that blue light makes it harder for us to fall asleep)!
Keep a digital dependence log of a typical day. Every time you reach for a device, be mindful of the action, and write it down. Every sneaky scroll of your feed while you wait for your coffee, every email check, message reply and computer sign-in.
Of course, depending on your job, much of your digital consumption is necessary. We’re not suggesting you ask your boss to ditch email and switch back to carrier pigeon, but businesses are gradually adopting a more holistic attitude to staff wellness, particularly to avoid digital burnouts. In Europe, organisations like Volkswagen have taken the lead in combating employee digital burnout by restricting server access outside of work hours, and encouraging more meaningful switch-off breaks. Internal email bans are gaining popularity, in a bid to force staff to speak in person and connect on a more personal level too.
Go through your daily diary and highlight the necessary and unnecessary uses of technology. Then, try to cut back on the unnecessary, and replace with more mindful uses of your time. Try reading a hard copy book on long train journeys, or putting your phone away while watching a movie with your family. Chances are you’re getting in some sneaky scrolls without even realising. You’ll soon notice the benefits of cutting down your screen time – every little helps.