4 ways to manage mental health in a digital world
Marketing, Akira by TELUS Health
Many Canadians are connecting to the world through technology more than they ever have before. While Millennials and members of Gen Z have been the most tied to their digital devices in recent years, the events of 2020 have led Canadians of all ages to work, socialize, network, shop and seek entertainment online.
This level of connectivity has incredible benefits — such as allowing us to converse with colleagues, friends and family while practicing physical distancing — but it can also leave us feeling disconnected, distracted and discontent during an already-stressful season of life. Real-life conversations, experiences and relationships are usually more fulfilling than their online counterparts, and studies have shown a strong correlation between social media use and feelings of isolation.
Here are four ways to help manage your mental health in our digital world:
1) Calm your screens
A recent UK study revealed that those of us with smartphones unlock them an average of 85 times and use them for five hours each day. Add to this computer work and video calls, and it’s understandable that we often feel like stressed-out goldfish, darting between screens, tasks and notifications. One way to mitigate this sense of unease is to turn off all instant notifications on your phone and/or computer. If that feels daunting, try turning off all non-work-related notifications as a first step. Removing the constant “pinging” may help create a calmer mind, reduce feelings of anxiousness and enable you to focus your attention on the task at hand — even if that’s taking a walk or a bath.
2) Declutter your phone
We know that a clutter-free physical space can help reduce distractions, make it easier to find what you’re looking for, and even create a sense of calm. The same principle applies to digital spaces. Take an honest look at your phone and remove any apps or programs that don’t bring you joy or add value to your life. Sometimes even seemingly positive apps can take a negative toll; for instance, if you have a library full of unread e-books or a meditation app that you never use, ask yourself if those things are serving you well, or if they are serving as reminders of more things that you “need to do”.
The same logic applies to the people and accounts you follow on social media; if you feel less-than-great when you see someone’s content, unfollow them.
3) Take a social media break
Many experts agree that an effective way to reduce stress is to identify its source and work to limit its power. In our digital world, social media is often a culprit of stress because it can seem to demand our attention from morning to night. If taking a complete break from social media feels drastic, start by removing one social media account from your phone for one week. You don’t have to delete your account, but removing the temptation to check it many times throughout the day will likely make an impact. Notice how you feel without it throughout the week — you just may enjoy the extra headspace.
4) Use technology to your benefit
While technology presents some challenges, it has also yielded incredible solutions to help you manage your well-being. For instance, there are countless apps you can use to improve your nutrition, fitness, sleep and digital diet (read more in this TELUS Wise article). You can even connect with doctors and mental health professionals through virtual care apps, allowing you to access the primary and/or mental health support you need, without worrying about seeing someone in person, taking time off work or long wait times.