How to go on a digital detox in the time of coronavirus

The key is to limit or completely cut cellphone time when engaged in social activities.

Myupchar March 16, 2020 18:16:34 IST
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How to go on a digital detox in the time of coronavirus

The smartphone was already central to our lives but since the emergence of the novel coronavirus , our news feeds are pretty much on a constant refresh. If there is a lull in the conversation, a break at work or a minor inconvenience, the mind starts to wonder about the current situation and we check our phones to get the latest update. Knowledge is power and, thanks to the internet, we're able to access important information in real-time. COVID-19 is spreading fast but so is knowledge about the many ways one can prevent it. 

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Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

In such times, there are still some perils of being so connected though. Many people are trying to spread misinformation about the virus and a lot of the fake news being circulated can be anxiety-inducing. Just like a car-crash though, it's hard to look away. 

Addictive behaviour

While cell phone addiction is not yet classified as a disorder, the term ‘nomophobia’ (no-mobile-phone-phobia) captures the sense of anxiety and unease that arises from being separated from the device. Numerous studies have shown that those with nomophobia exhibit symptoms of addiction. There is difficulty limiting screen time, interference with interpersonal interactions and daily routines. 

There is a physical cost as well. There has been a rise in pedestrian and motor vehicle accidents due to phone distractions. 

The pitfalls

Those with unhealthy relationships with their phones feel disoriented without them and struggle to stay off them. Studies have shown that those who spend a lot of time — over 5 hours — on their phones have lower self-esteem and lower levels of contentment. They also experience higher levels of social anxiety and avoidance of face-to-face interactions. 

As far as physical issues go, long hours slouched over the phone screen can lead to text neck and poor posture. The blue light emitted from phone screens can also disrupt sleep patterns and make it harder to fall asleep on time.

Going on a digital detox

At a time like this, you can't cut your smartphone completely from your life even if your relationship with it is unhealthy. You need your phone and the internet to stay updated on changes your government is implementing and the suggestions of international health organisations. Tracking virus hotspots can also prove to be of help. 

The key is to limit or completely cut cellphone time when engaged in social activities. Here are some steps to limit your screen time:

1. Turn off notifications: Limit alerts to what is absolutely essential: phone calls, texts from family or your partner, work emails and maybe one trustworthy news portal. Everything else, you will find, is not necessary and needlessly taking up your time.

2. Keep your phone away during meals and when you sleep: It is rude to be on your phone when you have company as it takes from the experience of the encounter. When you are eating, focus on your food rather than on a screen - you will find that your eating habits will improve and it will help in limiting the time you spend on your phone. Also, consider keeping your phone out of arm’s reach when you sleep.

3. Set a time limit: Many phones allow the user to set time limits on certain apps. Use this feature realistically and often - a warning may serve as a good deterrent to keep the screen off and consuming the same content again and again. 

4. Leave your phone home: If you go for a walk or a run, or leave the house for some errands, try leaving your phone behind. Reflect on how you felt without it, even if it was just for a short amount of time.

5. Don’t take the phone to the bathroom: While this sounds oddly specific, you will realize that you are spending a longer time on the pot because you are on the phone, which can lead to piles. The tendency these days is to keep the mind numb with some sort of stimulation no matter the situation. 

For more tips, read our article on Coronavirus.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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