Digital Overload Could Be Compromising Your Mental Health

How probable is it right now that you have several tabs open in your internet browser? Maybe you even have a chat or a few text conversations going on in the background, as well as music, TV, or any other number of distractions. If so, you aren’t alone.

Multitasking isn’t a new concept, but experts say, point blank, our brains simply aren’t equipped for it. In fact, if you think multitasking has made you more productive, think again; it actually is quite counterproductive and results in brain fog, forgetfulness, and lack of efficiency.

"There are only disadvantages," Stanford University communication professor Clifford Nass said of multitasking."There's nothing good about doing it."

Working memory helps us carry out tasks like reading and reasoning. Short term memory, which includes attention and cognitive control, helps us focus on the present moment. All of these brain functions have their limits, though, and when we force multitasking upon them they are overloaded and don’t get much accomplished. “The brain can't actually handle that sort of simultaneous processing,” Nass noted.

The more you multitask, the worse it gets. It, in fact, does not get easier for your brain to handle over time. A 2009 study found that frequent multitaskers were far worse at it than infrequent multitaskers. Frequent multitaskers were discovered to be terrible at filtering out extraneous information, focusing on important tasks, switching from task to task, and drawing information from short to long term memory.

Although multitasking is very tempting, it’s simply exhausting for your brain. Technology has made it even more difficult to limit multitasking. It’s easy to become distracted by the “ping” of an email or working on several different projects at once in multiple tabs. But it’s imperative for your mental health and the integrity of your work to only do one task at a time and dedicate your time solely to that single task. “It is cognitive work," Nass stated. “It's a lot of work to switch tasks. It's much less work on the brain to do one thing and then a second thing.”

So what can you do to reduce the multitasking addiction?

  • Take regular breaks, away from the computer. Your brain can’t function for hours and hours on end, anyway. Try to take a rest (or even a walk, which boosts blood flow to your brain) every 30 minutes to an hour, especially if you work at a screen.
  • Close your email and social media, and turn off distracting notifications. Set times to check each one when you need to. Don’t be governed by these things.
  • Remember to exercise self-care. Recognize when your brain is fried and give yourself a little TLC.

Technology is both a blessing and a curse to our productivity. It’s essential that we learn to use it wisely.

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Stay safe out there!

- The PJ Networks Team

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