Josh Jeffries discusses the mental health and wellbeing challenge created by the new digital world.
I heard a seminar recently in which the speaker claimed that the tech boom of the mid 00’s will go down as one of the most pivotal periods in the whole of human history. Facebook arrived in 2004 and changed the face of social media. Twitter arrived a couple of years later, disrupting the same industry by confining us to 140 characters. The iPhone arrived in 2007, which gave us mobile access to both of the above platforms, games, online banking and…well, everything you could think of and more.
However, amidst the incredible breakthrough and technological advancement, it is widely recognised that the digital age has thrown up challenges to our mental health and wellbeing that we’ve never faced before. Perhaps the most characteristic challenge being our total dependency on smart phones and our subsequent inability to ‘switch off’ by switching off our screens.
Remote access to your company hard drive, mobile access to work emails and the synchronisation of work and private calendars all contribute to the blurred lines between the professional and the personal. When work invades your private life, it can be incredibly challenging to carve out time to rest well and reflect productively on ‘where you’re at’.
How to recharge
I find it fascinating hearing about the different ways people take time out to recharge. Some methods – like mindfulness for instance – can be incredibly helpful. However, more often than not our rest times literally involve ‘switching off’, which is fine to a certain extent but can also leave us feeling like our life is simply ‘happening’ to us, rather than something we’re consciously living.
So we get home from work and kick back on the sofa with a decent TV series, or get lost in a good book before bed. We get away for the weekend and enjoy doing nothing but eating, drinking and sleeping. Ironically, some of us complain about staring at a screen all day, but then get home and switch our gaze between three screens for the rest of the night (TV, laptop and mobile in case I lost you!).
Sometimes we need to stay switched on in order to switch off.
I recently became painfully aware of this in my own life, during a period of gradual emotional and mental burnout. It became apparent that I wasn’t productively dealing with various issues I was facing, but rather choosing to soldier on living my life either in a state of ‘on’ or ‘off’. I was just about ‘on’ at work and just about ‘on’ with my wife and friends, though feeling pretty vacant and functioning with very little capacity. When I was ‘off’, I could usually be found in my own world, in the world of twitter, or in front of a screen in a world created for me by HBO or Sky Atlantic.
The wheel of life
It became apparent that an interruption was needed, and it was during this period of my life that I was reminded of a coaching tool that was introduced to me a couple of years a go.
Some call it ‘the wheel of life’; I prefer the ‘the balance of life wheel’. Regardless of what you call it, this is a simple tool that can be used as a self-coaching tool or as a peer-to-peer coaching method.
The exercise involves dividing your life in to eight defining segments as determined by you, e.g. work/career, social life, romance, health/fitness, family, leisure/fun, finances, personal development, etc.
Once you have mapped these out, you rate each segment out of 10 depending on how satisfied you are with each area, reflecting as you go on the reasons why you have landed on that given score.
Once you are finished, you will have a wheel, which – if you’re anything like me – will likely look something like this:
The idea is to use this illustration to reflect on the balance (or imbalance) of your life and to see which areas you may need to adjust in order that other areas might thrive.
Ask these questions
Here are some typical coaching questions you can ask yourself or your peer to take the exercise a little deeper:
- How do you feel about your life as you look at your Wheel?
- How do you currently spend time in these areas? How would you like to spend time in these areas?
- Which of these categories would you most like to improve?
- How could you make space for these changes in your life?
- What help and support might you need from others to make changes and be more satisfied with your life?
To wrap this exercise up, identify one action you are going to take having reflected on the state of your wheel. Sometimes the simplest interruption to our life rhythm can completely change the game and help to restore some balance to our often chaotic lives.
The point is this: sometimes 30 minutes spent in silence with a pen and paper can bring a greater sense of rest and perspective than an entire evening of the usual routine.
I’ve found that I enjoy the latter far more once I’ve invested in the former.
Feel free to get in touch with me directly on [email protected] if you’d like to discuss the above, or if you’d like to explore some coaching through our assessment and development service, Acre Frameworks.