How do you start your day? Waking naturally followed by yoga and meditation, or do you jump awake to the electronic beeping of your smartphone and immediately go into stress mode as you start checking your e-mails before you’ve even opened both eyes? Isn’t it ironic that gadgets invented to make our lives easier have become a main contributor to stress in our modern society?
Words: Rachel Forcella; Image: Pixabay;
On one hand technology, and its applications, is fantastic, and there’s no argument that it makes life easier – revolutionising all aspects of our lives from the home (if online food shopping hasn’t revolutionised the way a household runs, we don’t know what has!) to the workplace, making flexible working much more possible (both in terms of working from home and being able to choose hours that work around families and other commitments). It connects us with loved ones on the other side of the world and lets us know that your child has arrived safely at their friend’s house around the corner.
But – there is a dark side.
It’s addictive – social media, gaming, online gambling – just like other more familiar addictions it can damage relationships and can have other serious life-changing consequences such as debt and health issues.
We are becoming chronically distracted – the constant pinging of our phones and laptops tempts us away from what we are doing to check who or what it is that wants our attention. And, possibly worse, if our phone isn’t alerting us to a new text/e-mail/Candy Crush Saga invitation, we’re checking it anyway to make sure we’ve not missed anything.
Being constantly available and contactable is having an impact on our mental health, bringing with it anxiety and unprecedented levels of stress that shouldn’t be seen in individuals who have a secure roof over their head and unlimited food to eat. Even if you are able to manage and handle being “on” 24/7, there’s no denying that the blurring of work / home boundaries nibbles away at your peace of mind and is antithesis to complete relaxation (who hasn’t been guilty of sending, or replying to, a “Just a quick question” e-mail out of hours?).
Our sleep is suffering – the blue light emitted from our devices is upsetting our circadian rhythms and melatonin production (the hormone which regulates our waking and sleeping patterns), not to mention the aforementioned “pinging” when we forget to turn our smartphone to silent before we go to bed, or how our brains wake up when we notice new messages when we groggily check the time during a 3.30am bout of insomnia.
So, what’s the solution? Here are some ways to counteract this modern-day dilemma.
Banish digital stress
- Go on a “digital detox”. For a day, weekend, two-week vacation (for as long as you can get away with!) turn off all of your devices – no phones, laptops, tablets, kindles, and if it won’t cause a family revolt, no TV. We guarantee that you won’t want to turn them back on!!
- Turn off notifications. A sure-fire way to increase your productivity and to reduce your background stress levels is to turn off the app notifications on your devices. After the first day or so of obsessively checking that you haven’t missed anything, you’ll soon start to appreciate the fact that you can complete a task without having to break off because someone tagged you in a random meme or liked one of your tweets from 2012.
- Sleep with your phone/tablet/laptop in another room (or at the very least, if you’re using your phone as an alarm clock turn it on to aeroplane mode and don’t switch it back to “live” until you’ve had your shower in the morning). Try to stop using electronic devices a minimum of 30 minutes before you go to bed and wind down with a good old-fashioned book instead.
- Set boundaries with friends and family, for example, no phones at the dinner table, or no texting / messaging after 10pm or before 8am.
- If you run your own business or are a manager, consider if it is really necessary for you to be able to contact your team 24/7 or for them to be reading e-mails after hours / at the weekend. If not make it company policy not to! Likewise, if possible, set similar boundaries with your clients (obviously this will depend on your contractual obligations).
- Only check e-mails and social media accounts at set times during the day. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, put auto-replies in place to manage expectations.
- Connect in different ways – write letter (everyone loves to receive a hand-written letter!), arrange a proper phone call on a landline, meet up and go for a walk or have a coffee. Nurturing relationships in meaningful ways can have a very positive effect on both your physical and mental well-being.
- Use technology to your advantage. Harness the power of the digital world and use the plethora of apps and gadgets which have been designed to make you healthier in mind, body and spirit, such as mindfulness, meditation, productivity and activity, calorie and sleep apps and trackers. Just make sure that using these kinds of resources doesn’t just become yet another thing on your never-ending to-do list or a source of stress when you don’t complete 10,000 steps or get a full 8 hours sleep.
Want more useful advice and actionable tips on understanding and handling stress? Join our free “Show Stress Who’s The Boss!” online webinar on 30th October. For full details see here: http://forwardladies.com/fl-event/free-webinar-show-stress-whos-boss/