I just finished reading and article about the increasing number of people suffering from burn-out and depression in Belgium. Yes, I am still reading Belgian news as well as Irish and Italian. According to the article, the amount of people dealing with the aforementioned mental disorders have increased with 40% over the last 4 years, which is huge!

The article states that a great trigger of mental health issues is the lack of rest for our brains due to the use of new technologies and our inexperience in their use in a healthy manner. We are constantly online: for our work, during our free time on social media and lately, during the pandemic, also in substitution for our social contacts, shopping and other free time.

Information gets to us from a multitude of sources, whether it is the e-mail, Whatsapp and other similar communication channels, Zoom, besides socials and the traditional news channels. We’re constantly bombarded with news facts of generally bad news, which is not doing us any good and which only increases anxiety and stress levels.

I personally think the social media and various communication apps and channels are great and have improved exponentially the ease of contacts. This is especially true in my opinion for expats like us, who have left family and friends behind to settle in a new country. The ease I have to talk and see my mum or friends back in Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and the US is phenomenal! True, being online is not the same as being in the room with our loved ones, but we can have tea together and have a chat and spend time chatting with thousands of kilometres in between. We get to maintain a connection which is daily and we can regularly check in on each other and to be honest, lately with Covid, it wouldn’t have been a lot different to being within the radius of 50K!

The downside of it all is that we live with the phone in our hands and that as soon as we hear a bling or a buzz, our attention is immediately drawn to the device. This is true for me anyway! Sometimes I try to keep the phone away on purpose, but it never lasts long. I admit I am quite phone dependent: I am active on social media, watch the news, communicate with friends and relatives through the phone, follow courses and meetings, shop online, read and listen to books on my phone, take notes, do searches, use my sat-nav on it regularly, before the pandemic I booked flights with it, I now manage my e-shop, learn Irish on it, do my banking, watch and make videos and tutorials, listen to podcasts and music, track parcels, submit my medical bills through it, pay with it, make tons of pictures with it and even… make phone calls with it (LOL)!!!

I admit I am probably not the most balanced person when it comes to limiting the use or managing the time I spend on my phone…

But I try to compensate the time I spend on my phone with physical movement, by going for walks and meeting people. One of my greatest safeguards for mental sanity is my contact with nature and my social contacts. I like making long strolls in nature and soak in the beauty of my surroundings and if you are open to it, you can find the beauty of nature everywhere. I must confess I am privileged here in Ireland: there are many beautiful spots around: parks, hikes, beaches, but truly it is all about your mindset and being able to ground yourself.

Another important pillar for me is connecting with people and again here I suggest going beyond the conventional way of connecting. Especially now with the limitation of social interactions, it is also great to to connect through social media. If you are part of interest groups on Facebook for instance, it is quite easy to connect to like minded people. A few weeks ago I had a great meeting with people from all over the world in the subject of art therapy. It was great and I am sure we would never had this opportunity by meeting in person!

Other channels to connect are facilitated often also by local organisations, like schools, employers, enterprise offices, choirs, even churches, who now often try to set up online services, amongst which also networking opportunities, where some subject of interest is discussed and there is an opportunity to connect with a group of people in break out rooms and alike.

Obviously, there is nothing better than connecting personally and physically, which gives the opportunity as well to read body language, observe the interaction with the environment and feel the vibrations a person transmits, which make the interaction easier, but also these less conventional possibilities to socialise can be an important trigger personal relationships which can be enriching and broadening, especially when at a later stage they could give lead to in person meetings.

Coming back to the influence new technologies can have on our mental health, I just think that the awareness about the risks involved is already a great step forward. Awareness makes us pay attention to the measure we use those new technologies and the kind of feelings it triggers within us. Do we feel sad or down after hearing the third news bulletin of the day? Do we feel bad after surfing an hour on social media? Check in regularly with yourself and try to question your feelings and reasons of your moods and act accordingly. Contrast the time you spend on your tech devices with time spent differently and do this consciously.

It is the dose that makes the poison. Take care 🙂

May 19, 2021