Home More Stories World Mental Health Day: It’s time for digital fasting, says expert

World Mental Health Day: It’s time for digital fasting, says expert

A clinical psychologist from NIMHANS speaks to The Electronics about how this pandemic has led to a digital burnout and suggests practices to improve mental health.

Mentally, this year has been very challenging for a lot of people. The pandemic and its effects have crippled the balance in lifestyle and made people more reliant on technology. 

On World Mental Health Day, The Electronics spoke to Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, professor of clinical psychology and coordinator at Service for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT) Clinic, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS). He elaborated on the ill-effects technology can have on our mental health and also gave an insight into the biggest mental health challenges humanity has endured in this pandemic-struck period.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted physical activity and restricted our scope for offline leisure activity. People of all age groups have switched to digital platforms for both work (or education) and leisure activities, which has increased screen exposure considerably,” said Sharma. 

Another concerning thing, according to him, is that COVID-19 has triggered health-related anxiety, also called cyberchondria, in a lot of people who are constantly hopping from one webpage to another to search for COVID-19 related information. 

This has further contributed to digital burnout, zoom fatigue and webinar fatigue, which means that prolonged exposure to online activities has caused increased exhaustion and lassitude, he said. This, in several cases, affects people’s productivity. 

The biggest challenge, however, lies for those who were already subject to addictive use of internet in the pre-lockdown period. “People who were already involved in excessive use of technology are facing an enormous challenge as their addiction has only increased during these times. The primary reasons can be attributed to free time, boredom, loneliness, stress and increase in accessibility of devices, which has further contributed to biological ill-effects such as disturbed sleep patterns,” said the mental health expert. 

Tips to take care of your mental health

Here are a few practices Sharma suggested to help people get through this pandemic with a healthy mindset.

  1. People should acknowledge the fact that they have immersed too much into online modality and must inculcate changes in their habits and behavioural addiction. 
  2. People should resort to offline activities during their leisure time and consider “digital fasting”, wherein they stay devoid of any form of technology for a few hours or maybe even an entire day.
  3. Engaging in physical activities for at least 60 to 90 minutes on a daily basis proves helpful.
  4. A small break should be taken after every 30 to 40 minutes of screen exposure.
  5. Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is another important factor, especially in this work from home culture where flexible timings have caused employees to work outside their 9-5 schedule. 
  6. People should spend the last 30 to 40 minutes of the day without using any gadgets. 
  7. Parents should try to maintain healthy communication with their kids, especially the ones in their teenage. They should perhaps, indulge in some day-to-day offline activities to take some time off the gadgets and spend quality time together.

Read more: WireX – September Issue

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