How to Avoid Burnout in a Digital Age

digital burnout

Now I know you’re thinking that it is slightly odd for a marketing agency to produce an article based on digital burnout, but it’s a necessary take to see this digital cycle from the other side of the marketing lens. There’s a wealth of inspiration all around us to share, connect and absorb, but like anything else in life – it has to be exercised in moderation.

This onslaught of information has infiltrated our lives so much that it lead Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google in 2010 to proclaim that, “every two days, we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003.”

And that was almost 8 years ago.

This revelation actually came as an eye opener for me earlier this summer when I was up north and ripping up the lake on the SeaDoo, and I realized I had left my phone at someone’s camp. On a picturesque day with blue bird skies all around me, the anxiety of not having a phone to take pictures became very real. Until I realized that it’s okay – and disconnecting for an afternoon in the summer is quite literally one of the healthiest things I could do.

It’s Actually Addictive

Between the horizontal swipes, the vertical scrolls and the double taps, the fear of missing out on content is devastatingly real. Having a mini computer glued to your thigh to check it every few minutes isn’t your fault – as The Atlantic discovered, that itch is “a natural reaction to apps and websites engineered to get us scrolling as frequently as possible.”

The unpredictability of text, email, and other social media stimulates dopamine production, creating a relentless compulsion to check for any new notifications. And this behavioral conditioning is eating more time than you’d like to believe. Once you succumb to the temptation and check, it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back on track.

When you’ve got millions of voices all screaming in your ear every waking hour, you might find yourself going deaf. Digital burnout is real; the pressure of this need to be connected exerts physical changes on our brains that are frighteningly similar to hard drug users.

  1. Walk + Exercise + Get Outdoors

Exercise is one of the best options, as it replicates the dopamine production that makes your phone so addictive.

Getting outside is the healthiest option. A quick jog or walk can change your outlook for the whole day, and even sitting outside for a few minutes sans-electronics can change your mental state for the better.

Even if you can’t get outside, plan out some activities throughout the day that involve separation from your phone. Simple habits like meditation, yoga, or stretching before bed can help break the cycle of dependency. If it helps, regiment your next day by creating a plan of where, when and how you’re going to take digital breaks.

  1. Know When To Shut it Down

Meals, particularly those enjoyed at home, are a great opportunity to shelve the phone. Whether you’re eating alone or with family, make it a rule that your phone stays in your pocket until you leave the table. This sounds like a small step, but by ignoring your phone during meals you create important boundaries around “me-time.”

Let Will Ferrell educate you on why you need a #DeviceFreeDinner.

Mornings and evenings are also a wise time to create limits. Recent research shows that reading from a screen suppresses melatonin levels, making it harder to fall asleep, and also impacts how sleepy and alert you are the next day. Trying making your bed a “No Phone Zone” at least 30 minutes before sleep and 30 when you wake up. This fights the sense that you’re connected for every waking minute, and it preserves your bed as a place solely for rest. Harvard Business Review recommends scheduling 15-minute pockets of solitude throughout your workday where you leave devices behind.

  1. Go on Airplane Mode

It’s good to go off the grid every now and then. Try flipping your phone onto airplane mode so when you feel that impulse, you’ll be reminded that you’ve already decided to cut yourself off. If you need to warn friends and coworkers beforehand, so be it, but try to go completely offline one full day a month.

Again, this isn’t a knock on content or technology here. Would a personal trainer want you to over-exercise and cause a strain on your body? No, they would make sure you allowed rest days for your body to recuperate. Same thing applies here. As I took an internal audit on my everyday life and started documenting it more frequently, I noticed how flipping from screen to screen was presenting changes in my neurology and my dependency to always stay connected.

Now from an existential lens, this is where we’re heading, and it’s good to create time where you aren’t looking at screens. So what about you? Have you seen symptoms of digital burnout? And if so, how did you combat this? We would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.

Mike Valenti

About Mike Valenti

Skiing, content and tomfoolery are my three main ingredients in life.

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