Make Time for Downtime
Written on the 6 September 2016
Are you reading this in bed on your tablet? Or on the home computer, catching up with emails after dinner? Or on your phone while you're on the train to work?
If so, you're not alone.
According to the ACMA, 68% of Aussies use three or more devices to access the internet.i 10.7 million go online more than once a day.
A study by Nielsen, commissioned by Facebook, found that the average user checks Facebook 14 times per day.
Several surveys and reviews suggest that just over half of Australia's workforce spends at least a few hours each week working from home (or on the go) via the internet.
Whether you're conscious of it or not, chances are you feel the pressure to be 'on' 24/7.
If it's not work emails or social media, it could be text messages, Skype, mobile calls the list goes on.
Being connected all the time has its upsides; you may feel more on top of your work, knowing you can respond quickly to any events. And staying in touch with friends and family can lend a great sense of security. But at the other end of the scale, it can be unrelenting and overwhelming.
How being connected 24/7 could hurt your health
The physical and mental health impacts are clear. Psychologists have studied the issue from several different angles.
For example there's multitasking, the ability to juggle multiple tasks is often lauded as a desirable quality.
But a number of studies have shown that multitasking is not good for working efficiently. Nor is it good for your brain in the long run; it may impair your cognitive abilities, as you're not practicing concentrating hard on just one thing at a time.
Some have even found that the more things you try to do at once, the less effective you are at any of them.
The scary part is, this happens even when you don't know you're multitasking; just having the option of checking your texts, emails or social media can be a substantial and constant distraction.
How to switch off
Conversely, the more time you spend 'switched off', the greater your well-being.
Research on 'brain downtime' naps, meditation, nature walks, going 'off the grid' etc. suggests that the world's happiest and most successful people consciously practice switching off.
There are several simple ways you can start getting more brain downtime.
Start by implementing a 'no screens' hour each day.
Switch off all your digital devices for one hour at a set time.
If this is easy, challenge yourself to go screen-free for longer each time.
Second, schedule in some time to get close to nature.
Preferably, somewhere out of range of mobile and data reception.
Visit a hiking trail, national park, or botanic gardens. Make sure you have physical contact with the environment, e.g. walk barefoot on the grass. Some spiritual and holistic health practitioners call this 'grounding' or 'earthing'.
Meditation isn't just for Buddhist monks it's one of the fastest growing cognitive therapy methods in the world.
You needn't spend hours at a time just a short period of meditation can have measurable benefits. Try a book or an online guide to get you started with a good technique, or search for a free class near you.
Whichever techniques and activities you choose, it's important to schedule them in.
If you simply wait until you're bored or feel like you have free time, it may never happen.
Look at downtime as an investment in your relationships, in your personal well-being, in your efficacy as a worker that deserves allocated time.
And never apologise for taking time out to look after yourself.
i http://www.acma.gov.au/~/media/Research%20 and%20Analysis/Research/