How excessive screen time can cause burnout
In our modern world, it can be difficult to step away from screens. And for those who work using technology, this is an even more challenging task. But whilst we can certainly reap all manner of benefits from our devices, it’s important to understand why we should make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of time we spend using technology.
For those who must use screens for work, the time can quickly mount up when we also rely on our devices for social purposes and relaxation. Of all the negative effects associated with screen time, 93% occur in people who use screens for more than six hours a day.
The overuse of screens is linked to many health problems, from increased anxiety, physical ailments and trouble sleeping – and these can spiral into a condition known as digital burnout. This is a state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by the cycle of problems that comes with screen overuse.
Here we take a look at how this happens, as well as some easy steps you can take to protect yourself against burnout when you have to use screens for extended periods.
As an invention created to bring people together, social media has largely achieved this goal. However, with the constant mass of content and social connections available at our fingertips, this can often bring feelings of anxiety rather than comfort. Feelings of low self-esteem, fear of missing out and pressure to seek online validation are all easily found when we overuse social media and other online platforms.
Screen use releases dopamine into the brain, which gives a feeling of instant gratification. But overuse can have the opposite effect, where we are left feeling anxious, apathetic, and depressed. If you recognise these feelings in yourself, be sure to make a conscious effort to disconnect from the feeling of panic when you receive notifications. Putting yourself on do not disturb, setting a ‘busy’ status when you’re focusing on work, and having your phone on silent can help. At least once a day, aim to have at least one face to face conversation and enjoy a walk outside.
Whilst you may think using screens only takes a mental toll, it can also have a negative impact on us physically. People who use screens for long hours often experience finger, wrist, and forearm cramps, as well as backache, neckache, headaches and irritation in their eyes. Be sure to have the correct set-up, which includes an adjustable, ergonomic chair and wrist rests at your desk.
Our eyes are especially sensitive to screen overuse, and it’s wise to adopt the 20, 20, 20 rule if you have no choice but to use them for long periods. This is where you take a break of at least 20 seconds to look at something at least 20 feet away, every 20 minutes. This is crucial to prolonged eye health as it adjusts our focus from short distance to long distance, allowing our eye muscles to stretch and relax.
The physical discomfort of sitting at a desk and holding devices up for extended periods of time can contribute to burnout by creating physical strain and exhaustion. To combat this, be sure to take regular breaks away from your desk. Going for a walk, doing light stretching exercises or yoga all have positive effects on your body as well as your mind.
The blue light emitted by screens has been proven to have a similar effect on our body’s as daylight, and as such it’s known to disrupt our natural circadian rhythm. As the daylight naturally fades, our body’s begin to prepare for sleep and release hormones that make us feel tired. Excessive screen usage interrupts these signals, and can make it harder for us to fall asleep and sleep soundly through the night.
When we don’t sleep well, the next day is likely to be more stressful. Making an effort to switch off from all devices at least two hours before bedtime is a great way to ensure your body has enough time to properly prepare for a long, deep sleep.
Check in with yourself regularly
Using screens safely is all about learning to self-regulate in a healthy way, which reduces the chances of suffering from digital burnout. By becoming aware of your screen usage and habits, you can work to make small changes such as these to protect yourself from negative physical and mental health problems – as well as avoiding burnout.