If the thought of leaving your smartphone at home or not checking it whenever you get the chance fills you with horror, maybe it’s time to think about a digital detox. In order to stay healthy in this super-connected world we are living, we need to adopt viable habits in the way we use technology, and digital detox is one of them.
Teachers and education staff are under an increasing amount of pressure -- especially now. They are asked today more than ever to deliver their lessons through online platforms, making use of a plethora of digital tools across a multitude of devices. This deluge of technology (also known as ‘Zoom gloom‘), can have a physical impact on health, and teachers must learn how to manage it.
Physical Impact on Health
Extensive use of technology deteriorates sleep quality, causes eyesight problems, and can also lead to migraines. Most people who use screens have experienced some sort of digital eye fatigue, coming from increased screen use.
The impact of popular devices like smartphones and computers to our sleep has been proven scientifically. The light emitted from these screens has been found to reduce the production of the melatonin hormone, an important biochemical that controls sleep duration and quality. What is more, smartphones and other devices can become distractions when we want to sleep. Having a phone or tablet in your bedroom can cause you to lose up to an hour of sleep time.
Other effects of digital overuse include failing memory, mood swings, neck strain, back pain, and irritability.
How to Do Digital Detox
The following tips are best practices of digital detox that will remove distractions and help you focus on the important stuff.
- No social media. No posting, no reading, no liking. And turn off those jingling push notifications. Being updated on news is informative, but also distracting. If you let yourself be interrupted five times an hour, you are never really focused on the moment.
- Limit your email reading to three times a day, and no more than fifteen minutes per time. Use a timer for that. And turn off the notifications.
- Do not have lunches with your devices on. This, apart from your smartphone or tablet, includes your TV as well.
- If you can’t get your daily news from a print newspaper, at least restrict your online surfing to one or two online editions.
- Dedicate your TV time solely to entertainment. Set specific destinations. Don’t roam aimlessly around the channels.
- Rediscover paper. When taking notes, try using pen and paper or whatever else could keep you away from a screen. Also, reading a book on paper is much more satisfying than reading on a tablet, because it helps our brain process information more efficiently.
- Stop multi-tasking. In all facets of your life. Why? Because it just doesn’t work. When you are doing two things at the same time, your mind concentrates only on one of them. Simple as that. So, stop looking at your emails while talking on the phone.
- Stop worrying about being inaccessible or unreachable. The people who matter in your life can always reach you.
- Try the rule of thirds: eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, and eight free hours. Working more does not make you more productive. Working smart and keeping some free time lets our minds wander and makes our working time more effective.
- Set aside some tech-free time. Many of us feel naked without our devices, but taking a break from technology can do wonders to our well-being. Start by setting a specific tech-free hour each day, e.g. when having a meal. Then, see how you feel after a week.
- Make your bedroom a tech-free zone. Most people use their phones as an alarm clock. But when you reach out to your phone to snooze it, it is easy to start checking your Facebook feed. It is really better to leave your phone out of the bedroom and use a decent alarm clock. You will also sleep better. The blue light coming from the screens tricks our brain into thinking it is daytime, and makes it hard to put it to sleep.
- Protect your body. The average person spends half of their day staring at a screen, and their body pays the price. To fight digital eye fatigue, causing dryness, blurred vision and migraines, follow the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, look upwards at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. And don’t forget to blink.
- Fix the ‘text neck’ by holding your phone higher, so that you can look at it in a straight line. Fix the ‘smartphone thumb’ by having regular breaks from your phone and using different fingers to text.
- Create time to read a book. Dedicate some time, even half an hour, to read your favourite book. Reading is an excellent source of relaxation and will help you to wind down throughout the day.
- Keep your devices at a distance. When your device is close at hand, you may be tempted to check it. If you can keep them out of sight, it’s even better.
- Meditate. A digital detox is a great opportunity to practise relaxation techniques and strategies. They will help you release stress and tension. Try meditating for ten minutes at first, focusing on your breathing.
- Spend time with friends. A simple get together for coffee could provide some much-needed downtime in an otherwise hectic week.
- Switch your phone off when you’re with friends. Enjoy the moment and the company, and live life to the fullest without outside interventions.
- Get some rest. Find something that will relax you. Learn to meditate, do some yoga, spend some time in nature or have a long bath. Definitely better than watching TV.
- Go to sleep. Once you start limiting your screen use, you will discover that you feel tired earlier in the evening. This is your body telling you to go to bed. Listen to it.
So, give yourself permission to unplug from this noisy world, even for a while. Following the digital detox tips above will help you maintain a healthy relationship with your devices, take stock in life, and save your energy for what really matters: your teaching.