By Karen Vaughn, MEd, LPC, CEAP, SAP
Do you ever think it would be nice to leave your phone at home for the day? How many times have you left your phone at home mistakenly and gone into panic mode once you realized you didn't have it with you? Did you race back home to get it despite how much that extra trip delayed you? What's that about? Well, maybe it's about the inner struggle between wanting to have a more relaxing day versus wanting to be connected to everyone else's day!
In today's world of live streaming, we are thrust into the minute-by-minute happenings of every day. It has become so important for us to know what someone is posting on Facebook or to update our own status, to see the latest picture on Instagram or to respond to the most interesting tweet.
How does all of this digital technology impact our stress? Does it lighten the load or make it heavier? I know for me it does both. I am one who keeps my phone near and is never turned off. Not even during sleep time. This is because I have children who live away at college out of state. The comfort of knowing that I am easily accessible to them reduces my stress and worry about how they are doing. However, at the same time, my stress is increased because I am also easily accessible to everyone else and all of the other luxuries of having my phone on and near.
Research is showing that technology has made life different, but not necessarily more stressful. According to the findings of a study at Pew Research Center and Rutgers University, frequent Internet and social media users do not have higher stress levels. Other research from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, shows a direct correlation between the use of technology and stress symptoms. I believe the relationship between technology and stress has more to do with overuse rather than use.
I'm sure there are many others like me who can't disconnect for one reason or another, so in order to manage those stressors we must learn to choose when it is necessary to respond to technology and when it isn't. We must find a balance so that we are not over-indulging but not under-indulging as well. One tip is to schedule your digital technology time. This way it is not a constant throughout your day. For those who can shut your technology off, schedule some time to do that. Set small goals that increase over time. Replace the use of technology time with an alternate healthy behavior such as exercise, reading a book, meditation or spending time with family and friends.
WebMD interviewed Tim Ferriss, best-selling author of “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5,” “Live Anywhere” and” Join the New Rich,” who recommends the following tips:
- Turn off your devices for shorts periods of time. Your life won't implode, Ferriss states, but expect a period of withdrawal or anxiety.
- Leave your mobile phone at home one day a week. Ferriss recommends Saturdays.
- Devise a "not-to-do list." For instance, don't check email before 10 a.m., he says. Attempt to set some limits.
Just like anything else that helps you live a balanced life, the key is to learn moderation!