While January is (finally) over, the end of the pandemic doesn’t seem in sight just yet. As we wait for vaccines to work and the world to open up again, we continue to live our weird, disrupted lives – with the majority of us still facing the daily difficulties of remote working, online learning, home schooling, and the general anxiety and boredom of lockdown life.
As a result, we’re naturally spending more and more time in front of screens. Whether it’s Zoom work meetings, PE classes, Instagram meditations or just sitting down for a satisfying Netflix binge, the amount of time we’re spending online has increased by an average of 25% over the pandemic.
I’m not going to list the impact of too much screen time on our mental and physical health, as that doesn’t feel very useful right now. Instead, let’s see how we can find ways to continue to live, work and socialise online while still protecting our mental and physical wellbeing…
Take regular, mini breaks
While a ‘digital detox’ may feel like a ridiculous suggestion right now, we still need to take breaks. Let me introduce you to the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look 20 feet into the distance. For extra bonus points, stand up to do this – stretch your arms and legs, breathe deeply. It takes 20 seconds for your eyes to fully relax, which is a tiny time commitment but gives big health returns. (The Pomodoro timer is good for this – you can change the timings in settings).
Start and finish work
Challenge the ‘always-on’ culture by setting clear boundaries to your work day. You can’t reasonably be expected to be visible and available all the time, so don’t look at emails first thing or before you fall asleep unless it’s absolutely necessary. Reclaim your commute – if you used to travel to your office, protect that time for other activities like getting the kids ready for homeschool, exercise, meditation or just reading a book.
Shift your mentality from input to output
One of the actual benefits of remote working is that you can challenge the traditional 9-5 schedule. Stop thinking in terms of how much time you spend working each day, and instead focus on producing and delivering excellent work. You may find this approach leaves you with more time in the day and allow you to feel less guilty about dealing with all your other new responsibilities, such as homeschooling.
Monitor your screen time
Monitor your screen time to identify excesses and see where you can make useful cuts. Reflect on your habits – what’s working and what’s not? What can you improve? If you constantly have multiple screens on the go, can you limit your time to just one – close down email while you’re focusing on a task and stop looking at social media while you’re watching TV.
Try simple eye exercises
Combat headaches and eye fatigue and strain with these simple yogic eye exercises. They only take 2 minutes and will help strengthen, relax and rejuvenate the muscles of your overworked eyes.
Find 1 relaxing, non-screen based activity you love
Whether it’s reading a book or magazine, doing a puzzle, taking a hot bath while listening to a podcast, trying some meditation or one of a million other things that may work for you. If you’re always turning to the TV/a screen for your relaxation time in the evening, replace it with this activity two nights a week. This is a particularly good one if you’re struggling with sleep (which I think, is all of us!)
Take a digital Sabbath
I’ve started a personal ban on emails, google and apps from Friday evening to Sunday morning and have found it surprisingly easy and incredibly refreshing. Try 24 hours over the weekend where you only use your phone to message and talk to your friends and family – resisting all urges to open an app or google.