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Setting Screen Time Parameters

By Scout Lennon, FMCHC

COVID-19 has forced us all to adjust to a new normal. Classes, meetings and happy hours are just a few of the former face-to-face interactions that are now done virtually – substantially increasing screen time. Initially, there was more optimism toward it. People were no longer burdened by their commutes, and their go-to pair of sweats were now acceptable to wear to the “office.”

But now, the Zoom fatigue is real, and people are craving human connection more than ever. Unfortunately, with the amount of time spent in front of the screen soaring, our health is at risk. 

Research shows the amount of time spent on phones, computers and other devices directly correlates with increased levels of anxiety and depression, poor sleep quality and physical health issues such as headaches, eye strain and obesity.1-5

As a health coach, I see numerous clients struggling with these obstacles because all of their interactions revolve around their devices, leading to challenges when it comes to achieving a work-life balance. So, I decided to share a few tips to help you reduce screen time and improve wellness.

Set boundaries. How much time are you spending on your devices? Monitor screen time by taking advantage of device settings: utilize the ‘Do Not Disturb’ option, turn off app notifications and set time-constraints. A results-oriented goal is to dedicate a specific amount or scheduled time to avoid screens. 

Separate your personal and work life. Are you answering work emails after 5 or 6 in the evening? Organize apps and designate work to a specific device and personal matters to another. This plan avoids temptation and eliminates distractions. Another option is to create a ritual that represents “work is over.” This can be as simple as closing your laptop or 

writing tomorrow’s to-do list, maybe at a designated time each day. 

Create time for activities and hobbies. With more time at home, now is an opportunity to get outside and learn something new like gardening or resume an old hobby lost over time. Hobbies activate pleasure and a sense of accomplishment, improving moods and preventing depression. 

Practice time management skills. Are you procrastinating during the day and studying or working late into the night? Research shows individuals are the most focused in the morning, so commit to tackling the most important tasks (MIT) when most alert.6 

Change the alarm clock. Ah, the convenience of using phones to wake up. It is the first and last thing many people look at every day, but having a phone in arm’s reach may increase anxiety. Buy a traditional alarm clock and charge the phone further away from your nightstand or another room. Additionally, allowing morning light in is a more natural way to wake up and start the day and provides many natural health benefits. 

Devote time to reflect on changes you would like to adopt in the New Year. It could be creating a better routine, increasing your productivity or getting back in shape. By decreasing time on devices and reconnecting with ourselves, realizing what is truly important becomes possible. 

Scout Lennon is a functional medicine certified health coach. She works with clients to help them set and achieve sustainable health and wellness goals and can be reached at (760) 808.2589 or visit www.ScoutWellnessLA.com.

References:
1) https://centerforanxietydisorders.com/how-much-is-too-much-technology-screen-time-and-your-mental-health/;
2) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0003687012001159;
3)  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30639033/;
4) https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/more-screen-time-more-obesity/;
5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2776336/;
6) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18066734/ 

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