How to Combat Digital Burnout and Detox Your Relationship with Tech

Reading the news, scheduling appointments, paying bills, monitoring your steps and sleep patterns, buying coffee, watching a movie, tracking time.

What do all of these tasks have in common?

We can accomplish them through the use of a smartphone.

According to the Pew Research Center, which began tracking Americans’ internet usage in early 2000 when about half of all adults were already online, today, roughly nine-in-ten American adults use the internet.

Although this statistic accounts for overall internet usage, it’s no coincidence that the dramatic increase over time correlates with the introduction of Apple’s iPhone in 2007 and social media networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, just to name a few.

While these technologies and networks have been instrumental in society’s access to people, education and business across the globe, our overwhelming level of outlets in which we can connect has led to a new host of problems, the most notable being digital burnout.

What is digital burnout?

The idea of “burnout” was first introduced by an American psychologist in the 1970s to describe the symptoms of chronic occupational stress most commonly experienced by people in “helping” professions, such as doctors, nurses, and first responders.

However, the symptoms of extreme exhaustion, depleted physical and emotional energy, loss of motivation, lack of focus, and the inability to cope, which leads to poor work performance, absenteeism, and disconnection in interpersonal relationships are now increasingly present among people of various age ranges, occupations, and walks of life.

And despite all their demographic differences, the current population experiencing burnout has one thing in common: increased dependency on digital technology and hyper-connected lifestyles.

If you can relate to varying degrees of these feelings of burnout, it might be time to re-evaluate your relationship with tech and intentionally unplug as you work to detox from the digital world.

Here are four places you can begin mindfully reconnecting:

1) Nature

Our connection to the natural world is inherent. We were designed to thrive off off nature, and our ability to coincide with the earth is one of our most innate inclinations as humans.

In fact, studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology show that our forays into the natural world result in greater vitality and energizing effects than those produced by physical activity and social interaction.

Although spending time in the outdoors through activities such hiking and camping provides a more immersive experience nature, don’t discount smaller connections.

Going for a short walk in the morning or on your lunch break, choosing to not be on your phone while walking your dog, or enjoying a meal outside are various ways to integrate connections with nature into your day.

Give rise to your senses and reflect on the sights, smells, and sounds of nature, and notice your renewed sense of energy and clarity that’s likely to be unearthed.

2) Your Inner Circle

One of the most interesting phenomena related to the rise of social media and portable technology is that while we're more connected than ever before, feelings of social isolation are at an all-time high.

As it turns out, only 2.7 percent of the average Facebook user’s “friends” can be regarded as genuine friendships, according to an Oxford University study.

This statistic begs the question, why do we spend so much time on social networks? If we are only truly “friends” with a few of our online connections and spending more time on social media increases our feelings of loneliness and life dissatisfaction, why not focus more on our closest relationships?

There are scientific findings around the answer, however, asking ourselves this question is more helpful in the sense that it allows us to refocus on the people we do want to connect with consistently, intentionally, and in-person, if possible.

Some ways to foster those connections with people in your inner circle include eating meals with family and friends, having more in-person conversations rather than opting for texting or social media messaging, and participating in activities all without technology being present.

3) Your Daily Routines

According to a study conducted by research firm, dscout, smartphone users touch their phone an average of 2,617 times per day in an average of 76 separate phone sessions per day.

As you can imagine, with smartphones also acting as a primary source of news and entertainment as well as a wake-up alarm, it's not difficult for your phone to be the first and last thing you touch all day.

This pervasive use of technology around our most critical times of day (when we rise and as we unwind to go to sleep), can significantly affect our sleep patterns, eating and exercise habits, and relationship with our work.

So, rather than habitually and mindlessly reaching for the screen, reclaim your daily routines by opting to use a traditional alarm clock, spending the first hour of waking up and the hour before going to bed sans screens, as well as carving out device-free boundaries and windows of time.

4) Your Tech

Yes, sometimes digital detoxing involves spending some focused time on your devices so you can assist in your disconnection efforts.

Taking stock of what apps aren’t necessary and deleting them, turning off notifications that create a false sense of urgency, and unsubscribing from emails and other extraneous information will play a huge role in your ability and energy to focus on more important matters.

Regardless of where you currently exist in your relationship with technology, the thread that weaves its way through this entire conversation is time.

Yes, technology allows us to do things with more ease and efficiency, but if we don't guard our time spent on digital devices, we sacrifice time spent connecting with ourselves, our surroundings, and those closest to us.

And when we are mindful of our priorities, digital dependency becomes a decision, not a diagnosis.