Articles - 4th March 2019

Too Much Screen Time is Harming Your Health. Is It Time to Unplug?

Words by Charlotte Witts

You’ve probably heard it thousands of times before: too much screen time is bad for your health.

And honestly, you’d LOVE to cut down on the time you spend online, but working as a freelancer makes it incredibly hard to do.

Whether you’re working as a writer, graphic designer, web designer, marketing expert, virtual assistant, film-maker, photographer or artist, a core chunk of your day is spent sitting behind a computer screen and perfecting your latest offerings.

Yet when you finish work for the day, what do you do? Yep – even more screen time!

If you’re like most people, you’ll likely find yourself catching up with your friends on Facebook and Instagram then collapsing onto the sofa (with a glass of wine and nibbles in hand) to catch up on the latest season of your favourite series on Netflix.

The trouble is, according to the experts all this screen time isn’t good for us.

Us freelancers need to unplug more often. Here’s why.

The real problem with all that screen time

It’s impossible to deny that these screens have given us so much more opportunity than generations before us.

We can work remotely from wherever in the world we like, we can check facts and info with the click of our mouse button and we can instantly stream and download music, movies and books, as well as communicate with friends and loved ones all over the world.

Yep, the internet and screens are pretty awesome if you ask me. But all of this convenience comes at a price. Here are some of the worst bits that can happen when you go OTT with screentime.

#1: Your brain stops working optimally  

According to Psychology Today, all that screen time can quite literally rewire your brain.

This can include reducing your ability to plan, prioritize, organise yourself and even process information, plus it affects your ability to form healthy relationships.

Truly scary stuff, especially considering how much us freelancers rely on these skills every day.

#2: Your sleep really suffers

For starters, if you’re up until the early hours of the morning, catching up with the latest season of ‘Black Mirror’ on Netflix, you’re highly unlikely to be getting enough shut-eye.

But that’s not the only way screens can get in the way of a good night’s sleep – they can also make the sleep that you do get much poorer quality.

This is because the screens of your phone, computer and TV produce artifical blue light. Blue light can prevent your body from producing a hormone called melatonin which is responsible for helping you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Numerous studies also link this blue light to low mood and depression, increased eye strain and headaches, an increased risk of cancer, obesity, heart disease and many more.

#3: You feel more overwhelmed and stressed out

Now that we’re living in an age of 24-7 connection, it’s harder than ever to break away and switch off from the stresses, pressures and sense over overload, especially when you’re a freelancer working unusual hours or remotely.

A barrage of constant Facebook and Instagram pings, email notifications and clients contacting you at 9 pm on a Saturday night can take up far too much brain space and lead you straight into the arms of burnout.

#4: You’ll be exposed to high levels of electromagnetic fields

Sitting in front of your laptop, iPad, or phone and using WIFI and Bluetooth devices also exposes you to higher levels of electromagnetic radiation.

According to some, this kind of man-made radiation can potentially harm your health and lead to a variety of health issues such as headaches, irritability, sleep problems nausea, dizziness, and loss of concentration.

Why you should definitely unplug ASAP

Given all the info about screens that I’ve just shared, you probably don’t need much more encouragement to switch off your devices and step away from your screen from time to time.
Just in case, here are a few reminders:

1) You’ll sleep much better.

Switch off your screens more often and you’ll fall asleep faster, sleep better and feel rested when you wake up.

This will help you feel: more focused on what you’re doing, heaps happier and more motivated, extra creative and ready to crush anything life might throw your way. You’ll even become less irritable and much kinder to your loved ones. Needless to say, your personal life and your business will both benefit hugely.

2) You’ll feel much less stressed

Ever find yourself comparing yourself to others? You start wondering why your life isn’t as awesome as those you keep seeing on Insta, why your business isn’t bringing in six figures like those guys you see on LinkedIn and why all that time in the gym isn’t getting you looking any more like those people you see in the media all the time…This is insanely stressful.

Stepping away from your tech and getting back to basics from time to time helps you stop comparing yourself to others, helps beat chronic FOMO and instantly dials down those stress levels.

3) You’ll have loads more time on your hands

When you spend less time on your screens, you’ll reclaim all those extra hours to use exactly as you wish.

Never again will you get lost in the deep dark hole of YouTube autoplay and clever marketing suggestions, Facebook feeds, updates and Netflix marathons when you’ve finished your work for the day.  

You’ll have more time to work out, spend time with family, friends and other loved ones and you can rediscover an old hobby like salsa dancing, drawing or capoeira. In turn, this will help lift your mood, help you feel more connected and spend more time doing stuff that you love.  

4) You’ll look more attractive!

Even if you’re not consciously aware of it, all that screen time gets you squinting at your screen and tensing your muscles in your face and jaw. This can trigger horrible headaches and, over time, encourage the appearance of those lines and wrinkles that often start to appear once you hit your 30s.

How to limit your screen time and unplug

Getting off that screen is easier said than done, right? Here are a few tips that have really helped me to tear myself away from my computer and have more fun.

Use pen and paper

Whenever I can, I ditch apps and fancy websites and I go back to using good old pen and paper.

This is an awesome hack when it comes to creativity (scientists say that this helps us get more creative) and it will help you slow down and relax.

Turn off the wifi or switch on aeroplane mode

Shocking, I know! But turning off your Wifi at night or during certain hours of the day is a sure-fire way to break those automatic habits like mindlessly checking Facebook or watching cat videos.

Plug your router into a programmable timer or hit aeroplane mode on your device and you’ll be in control of your screen usage, instead of the other way around.

Take regular breaks when you’re working

Even if you have a massive project to complete and a deadline that’s looming over your head, make sure you still give yourself breaks throughout the day, especially at lunchtime.

Eat lunch away from your desk (without touching your phone!), take a walk outside, go and do something you love. You’ll feel much less stressed, stay more focused, reduce eyestrain and help recharge your batteries.

Plan an unplug half day at least once per week

If you’re serious about unplugging, schedule an unplug day or half day in your diary at least once per month, ideally every week. (Why not get involved with National Day of Unplugging on 1st-2nd March 2019 if you need help getting started?)

You’ll hit that reset button, feel much calmer and relaxed and spend more time doing stuff that you love. Awesome!

Keep technology out of your bedroom

Make your bedroom a tech-free zone and you’ll vastly improve the quality of your sleep, reduce your stress levels and perhaps even find more time to get cosy with your partner, or read a good book or even to practice meditation.

So to wrap things up here, yes, I too believe that screens are awesome.

But for the sake of your health, happiness, relationships and freelance businesses, it’s vitally important that you find time to drag yourselves away from tech and do some real-life fun stuff instead.

We champion the freelancers and every entrepreneur who took a leap of faith with their idea.

If this sounds like you, head over to our Virtual Office and send us your best work via an UnderPinned Portfolio. We want to hear from you!

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