InfoSec Blog - Digital Wellbeing and Mental Health during a Pandemic and Beyond

Mental Health

June 1, 2020

While one in five people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges that can impact their mental health. When health professionals, researchers, and device manufacturers talk about "digital wellbeing," they are referring to the use of technology to support mental and/or physical health in a measurable way. Digital wellbeing is often associated with minimizing screen use, reducing eye strain, becoming aware of the unforeseen mental health impacts of things like social media use, increasing the emphasis on physical activity and nutrition, and promoting better sleep patterns.

Because many of us are working from home and are not able to communicate in person with our coworkers or classmates, we are turning more and more to our mobile devices—the very things that many of us typically spend some amount of time trying to get away from.

However, we are now using these electronic tools for what arguably might be their original purpose—to gather information easily. Some of us may also be using mobile devices to partake in some mindless gaming to take our minds off the current situation. Perhaps all of us are using social apps more and more to stay in touch with those we care about. Whatever we are doing with our mobile devices, even if it is staying away from them, it's not wrong. During a time like this, everyone should be doing whatever is necessary to keep some semblance of normalcy in their world.

As we continue to work (remotely) during the coronavirus pandemic, use the following tools and resources to help.

  • Engage with Digital Tools
    There may be some things you cannot control in the short-term, but there are other things you can control. Actively engaging with digital tools can help you to take back control of your life. For example, you could take an online course after work or early in the morning. Mobile apps can help you create shopping lists, plan upcoming events, and even keep track of tasks you want to get done around the house (when you have a moment to spare). Actively schedule these types of activities on your calendar and make the appointments private. No one needs to know that you're going to exercise in the morning before work, call a relative during your lunch break, or do chores in the evening. Set aside time for passive use as well. It's okay to play a game on your mobile device while you watch the evening news.

 

  • Mental Health + Physical Health = Wellness
    Take advantage of mobile apps designed to help you maintain your health and wellness.
    • Sleep tracking apps can be used to record your dreams and log how many hours you're sleeping.
    • Dietary tracking apps can be used to plan meals, count calories, or remind you to hydrate.
    • Physical activity apps can remind you to get up and move or guide you through a specific activity such as yoga or cycling.
    • Mental health apps can help you relax and meditate, keep you on the road to recovery, or help you cope with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other issues.
    Remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. While prioritizing daily exercise and meditation can be challenging, especially during the current pandemic, taking time for yourself each day is critical for your general wellbeing.
    Gryphon Family Resources
    UofG Student Wellness Services Resources

 

  • Social Distancing, Yes. Social Isolation, No.
    Sheltering in place and keeping your distance from others when outside are having a positive impact. Social isolation, on the other hand, may have a negative impact on mental and cardiovascular health. So take the opportunity to nurture the meaningful relationships you have in your life and reach out to others. Set aside time to send messages to old colleagues, friends, or distant relatives. If possible, set up a call with Teams, Webex, Zoom, or whatever medium is available. Set up a group chat with relatives, children, or classmates. Keep in mind that you may hear bad or sad news when reconnecting, so prepare to take the good news with the bad. Share positive news (perhaps how extracurricular online coursework is going), express gratitude, and offer virtual help in whatever way possible.

 

  • Mental Health America Wants to Help!
    Are you working hard to be positive or maintain a positive outlook right now? Do you want to figure out the best way to own your feelings? Do you need help dealing with or eliminating toxic influences in your life? Perhaps you just need help handling a mental health condition (yours or that of a loved one). Mental Health America has compiled a list of resources to help with these and other issues.

 

  • Your Concerns Are Valid
    There are many reasons why you might be feeling anxious or worried nowadays, especially during the pandemic. Know that all concerns are valid and that others share them too. It is important to pause, take a step back, and think about what you can control, realizing that focusing on these things can provide some comfort. For example, you can control your mind, body, and immediate environment, what you eat and digitally consume, and how you protect yourself and others.

 

  • Keep It Digital, But Keep It in Check
    You're home and on your devices more and more, but there are some things you can do to minimize your device usage.
    • Put away mobile devices while enjoying a meal with your family. (Unless, of course, you are enjoying a virtual family dinner.)
    • Stop using electronic devices at least thirty minutes before your usual bedtime. Keep your phone out of your room at night. Instead, charge it in a central location like a living room or kitchen.
    • If you have a blue light filter, turn it on in the evening or set the filter so it's always on.
    • Try to avoid electronic device use for a full weekend day. Did you make it through an entire day successfully? Try adding a second day!
  • Things your devices can help with:
    • Recent versions of Android and iOS have built-in features which allow you to monitor your usage and sometimes even limit your usage. These features can be enabled (and disabled) at your discretion.
    • Google has released a series of Digital Wellbeing Experiments which allow you to do things like see how often you unlock your phone and minimize distractions.

 

Source: Educause Security Awareness