How to Prevent Digital Overload When You Rely On Your Electronic Devices

  • By Jennifer Mulder
  • 28 February 2022
  • 6 minute read
How to Prevent Digital Overload When You Rely On Your Electronic Devices | The Health Sessions

Do you find yourself relying even more heavily on technology than the average person, due to your physical limitations?

It’s no surprise that those of us living with a chronic illness may find ourselves experiencing symptoms of ‘digital overload’. Unfortunately, many people have found that in some ways, technology has made life more difficult. Using your electronics too frequently and for long periods can leave you feeling drained physically and mentally – on top of the pre-existing illness that you deal with daily.

Maybe you feel that you spend too much time on your devices. Granted, for those who work remotely, this can be a necessity. Or perhaps you’ve noticed that your mood is worse or that you feel anxious and uneasy at the end of the day, and can’t quite put your finger on why. These are signs that you may be utilizing your technologies at an unhealthy rate. However, digital overload is something you can recognize and you can make changes to better balance your digital use.

What does digital overload look like?

You might be able to notice a significant change in your stress levels if youre using your devices too much. You may experience side effects of increased irritability and fatigue, especially if the blue light coming from your screens and the endless stream of information disturb your sleep. Not too mention that processing all that digital and sensory information heavily taxes your brain, leading you to feel forgetful, overwhelmed and unable to focus well. 

You might also develop or trigger physical symptoms such as eyestrain, headaches, chronic migraines and aching joints from a slouching posture. Additionally, people who use their devices excessively have a greater chance of experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

How to Prevent Digital Overload When You Rely On Your Electronic Devices | The Health Sessions
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How can you find balance in your technology usage?

There are many, seemingly simple, ways to enjoy your digital devices without experiencing the potential side effects of over-exposure to them. Making minor adjustments in your daily environment by setting a screen time schedule and prioritizing a more IRL (in real life) structural balance can help you limit your digital overload. Creating this structure may surprise you and show you how easy it is to improve your relationship with technology.

1. Create no-screen spaces

If youre someone who likes to scroll through your socials at the dinner table, it can help to create a personal boundary for yourself. This could be as simple as putting the phone down during meal times. For others, a no-screen space could be a room or an area dedicated to not having any screens in it. When you feel the symptoms of digital overload creeping in, this room is your safe space. Picking a room that has an abundance of natural light and adding some plants or other decor can help make this a screen-free sanctuary. Having a space to ground yourself in can be the perfect escape when your daily routine becomes overwhelming.

 2. Implement no-screen times

This goes hand in hand with the no-screen spaces. But, if you dont have an entire area that youre able to dedicate to being tech-free, you can still set aside time each day where you take a screen break. This is especially important for those who may be working from home as well. Many may find it trickier to take a break from their screens when their job relies on it. However, it doesnt have to be for a significant amount of time, but rather setting aside a block of time. Taking 15 minutes breaks every 2 hours, or smaller 5 minute breaks every hour can help you stay focused on the tasks at hand. These mindful micro-breaks can also help alleviate the overwhelming feelings brought on by excessive screen time.

How to Prevent Digital Overload When You Rely On Your Electronic Devices | The Health Sessions
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3. Adjust the way you interact with technology

Whether you spend your time looking at screens for work or leisure, you should be aware of the distance between you and your screen. Be mindful of this, as you should be sitting about 25 inches away, or at the very least an arm’s length away. This may come as a shock to know for many who cannot view their electronic devices without having them directly in front of their eyes. To add insult to injury, you shouldnt be looking directly downward at a screen as doing so from that angle can lead to neck strain; as well as eye strain and dry eyes.

Using artificial tears to lubricate your eyes when they feel dry is also a more mindful way you can better improve and manage your screen time. If at the end of the day you’re someone who experiences headaches, dry eyes and reoccurring eye irritation, you may need to update your current lenses to better align with your eyesight. Choose a pair of prescription glasses to invest in that you won’t mind wearing for long hours in front of your computer or even when leisurely on your phone. Glasses can also be a good alternative if you wear contacts, which are already prone to dryness and irritation.

4. Turn off unnecessary notifications

 Turn off any notifications that do not pertain to the list of items youre trying to accomplish for that day. Or, utilize the Do Not Disturb option that many phones come equipped with now. For Apple users, there is now a feature where you can dedicate different blocks of time to different areas of focus. This can help limit the number of notifications you receive throughout the day, keep you focused, and assist in limiting yourself to only using one device at a time.

5. Prioritize off-screen activities 

For those living with a chronic illness, off-screen activities may look different than the average persons. If you find it challenging to disconnect from tech and take a walk, play a game, or cook your favorite meal; you can still participate in things that allow you to unplug throughout the day.

If you arent as able to go for a walk around the block, know that you dont have to go far to get some fresh air. If youre able, step outside to enjoy a few minutes taking in the breeze. Or at the very least, head to your nearest window, prop up a chair, and if weather permits, open the window and take in the fresh air. The power of fresh air is severely underestimated in terms of maintaining our mental health and its ability to ground us.

How to Prevent Digital Overload When You Rely On Your Electronic Devices | The Health Sessions
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Moderation is key

If you find yourself using your devices excessively, you might be missing out on other activities that take place offline. Time on your device may be time away from your friends or family, which is important for your emotional and physical health. Your devices might also be an ongoing distraction that prevents you from maintaining your work and personal obligations. However, with a little bit of information, moderation, and some healthy screen use behaviors you can have the benefits of technology while maintaining your physical and mental well-being.

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