We live in a world of increasing noise. We are constantly surrounded by mainstream and social media, bombarded by viral trends trying their best to distract us. The temptation to mindlessly check our smartphones or senselessly scroll through news feeds can tug at our sleeve like a hungry toddler. Losing ourselves in our phones may offer the guise of a break from the demands and pressures of life, however in reality it is more likely to leave us feeling even more tired and wired.
Since the pandemic, mental health has been brought under the spotlight. Many of us have been burning through our mental and emotional reserves and are seeking solutions to help us stay afloat. We have been googling for articles, downloading apps and desperately trying to find tips on how to quick fix the brain fog. Yet, via the clever search algorithms and personal data we have shared in order to gain access to resources, we have then likely since been subjected to notification after notification about the latest app updates, tutorial releases or associated products.
Do you appreciate the irony here?
Mindfulness, meditation and wellbeing apps have seen a sharp increase in popularity since the onset of COVID-19. This has been in direct correlation with studies suggesting that as a result of the pandemic, mental health has reached an all-time low. More than half of adults and over two thirds of young people reported that their mental health had deteriorated during lockdown restrictions.
Some of the most popular apps like Calm and Headspace are now valued in the billions. The wellbeing industry as whole is valued into the trillions. Although the primary mission of such apps may be to help meet the rising demand for wellbeing services, are they really the best solution when it comes to combating stress, burnout and depression?
There is a widely held belief that too much screen time can cause the onset of anxiety and depression, resulting in poor mental health. Screen addiction is damaging to our sense of self-worth, harms our relationships, and negatively impacts on our sleep.
The notion that an app can quickly fix a mental health issue, whilst it is simultaneously contributing to it may sound absurd. Perhaps that’s because it is?
Apps may help as a starting point to introduce the user to new tools and techniques such as guided meditations or daily mindfulness activities. However, like any dependency, the urge to check an app, especially, more often than not, prior to sleeping is likely to have negative longer-term consequences that outweigh the initial benefits.
So, what does a healthier solution look like?
1. Identifying the root cause of your problem will always serve you better than surface-level, superficial action. You can do this through self-exploration (without a phone), reading books on the subject, joining a self-development course or working with a talk-therapist trained in root-cause therapy, whether that person is a coach, psychotherapist or counsellor. Most practitioners will offer an exploratory complimentary chat, so that you can find out together whether the approach that they take is the most suitable support to meet your needs.
2. Disconnect to reconnect with what matters to you the most. To approach this as positively as possible, frame this as consciously carving out more “me-time”, rather than simply setting an unappealing goal to “spend less time on devices”. Your me-time can take any shape or form that feels restorative and nurturing to you. This may be a long, hot bath, a walk outdoors in nature, an hour by the fire with a good book, coffee with a friend or re-engaging with an old hobby. Allowing for this me-time may feel hard to settle into at first, be gentle in your self-talk and reassure any part of you nagging that you aren’t being productive, that actually you will be more productive as a result of prioritising this time for self-care. Make it a new and regular habit. Slowly, but surely you will certainly start to settle more deeply in to yourself and feel the benefits.
3. Rest is best – Simplify your daily commitments and play with your routine, so that you start winding down at least one hour before you want to be in bed. Getting sufficient sleep is hugely important to the healthy functioning of our bodies and minds. Resetting your sleep routine can unlock significant mental health benefits. Create a routine that works with you. Not only will you feel better for it, but as a result you will also find it easier to make healthier food choices. Guidelines on what constitutes healthy food and optimum hours of sleep vary from study to study, but more likely than not you will have a good understanding of what your body needs both in terms of nutrition and rest. Trust your instincts and tweak as necessary.
If you have been experiencing signs or symptoms of burnout this is a real condition that can’t be remedied with a band aid approach and it is wise to seek the support of an experienced professional. Apps are fine as a starting point, but real healing is done in the real world, with real people. It is ok to reach out and ask for help. We are all human. There is no replacement for deep and meaningful human to human connection.
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