How to Save Your Brain from Online Overload

Do you spend more time online than off? If you fear your online life is taking a toll and impairing your relationships, try a few of these tips.

By Reader's Digest Editors

Do you check your text messages while giving your child a bath? Do you take your Blackberry with you on romantic walks with your spouse? Or do you feel a compulsive need to check email even though you know you have other tasks to finish?

If so, you may be suffering from online overload. The fast pace of the Internet can accustom your brain to constant new stimulus, so that it may have trouble adjusting to the slower pace of activities like gardening or playing with your child.

If you fear your online life is taking a toll, try a few of these tips:

1. Keep a record of your online life.

Find out how much time you really spend online, and what you’re doing with it, by tracking your usage. Note how you feel before and during your time at the computer. Many people tend to go online when they are feeling bored, lonesome, or anxious.

2. Set time limits for your Internet use.

Give yourself a specific time period—say, an hour—to answer personal emails, update your Facebook page, and check texts. After that, turn off the computer (or phone) and do something offline.

3. At least once a month, spend an entire day offline.

From the time you wake up till the time you go to sleep, avoid any contact with the Internet. No PDA, no email, no IM, no blogs.

4. Gaze out the window.

Take a break for a few minutes to stare out the window. This can help train your brain to slow down a bit.

5. At work, take an offline hour.

During this hour, get things done! Just go to Control Panel / Network (on Windows) or System Preferences / Network and click “Disable/Disconnect”. Use this time to do your offline work – write memos, write press releases, whatever your job requires. If you really NEED to get stuff from the Internet, write it down and move to the next item on your to-do list. No matter what, only go back online after the hour has passed. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done while offline.

6. Establish regular Internet/phone-free times.

For example, never check your messages between 6 and 9 p.m.

7. Create controls to keep you within your limits.

The Firefox extension PageAddict offers one solution to limit the time you waste browsing the web. For each group of websites you define using tags, you can specify the number of minutes you allow yourself to spend daily. Once you reach the daily limit on the group, you’ll be met with the message get back to work! page access blocked by pageaddict.

8. Make a phone call.

Sometimes our infatuation with the web makes us forget the joy of hearing a friend’s voice, and having actual, out-loud banter. Better yet, call your friend to make a date to spend some time together outside.

9. Reduce email interruption.

Set up two separate email accounts, one for your personal life and one for your professional life. Get better anti-spam filtering, so that your Inbox only contains real messages. Archive messages and move as much stuff out of your Inbox as possible. This will all help make your online time more efficient so you can get off faster.

10. Get tested for addiction

According to the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, you may have a problem if loved ones are becoming troubled with the amount of time you are devoting to the Internet or if you experience guilt or shame. They offer a virtual Internet addiction test that can help you determine whether it might be time to shut down.

11. Think about other things you loved to do before you discovered the Internet.

Re-discover reading, exercising, meeting up with friends in person, going to the movies and hiking. Don’t become anti-social and let your mind go to mush.

See also: Take Control of Family Tech Time

12. If you are dating online, only email back and forth a few times with your potential date.

Relationships happen in person; the longer you wait to meet the more awkward it will be when you do. Make sure you are in a safe position before you meet, but don’t drag on an email correspondence longer than necessary.

13. Always go online with a purpose.

Say to yourself, “I am going to check my email and buy a bathing suit.” Do said tasks and don’t wander off to explore silly websites/message boards.

See also: 10 Ways to Use Technology to Find What You Want

14. Try to stay off websites that are addictive.

These include Facebook, MySpace, Xanga, MyYearbook, and Photobucket. If you have problems getting off of these sites, just have someone else block them using your built-in Content Advisor. If you’re using Windows Vista, use the parental controls to control Internet access and time on computer.

15. Know you are not alone.

Internet addiction is becoming more and more common and more and more well known. Do not be embarrassed. Find others with the same problem and help each other beat it.

Sources: CNN, Zenhabits.net, ehow.com, wikihow.com

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