A Guide To Digital Stress And Tips To Manage It
In today’s fast-paced and technology-driven world, digital stress has become an increasingly prevalent issue that impacts our mental health and overall well-being. With the constant barrage of notifications, emails, and social media updates, it’s no wonder that many of us feel overwhelmed and anxious. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, now is a great time to bring light to the negative impact of digital stress and take steps to address it.
Causes of Digital Stress
Digital stress is the stress or anxiety you experience due to increased reliance on digital technology and its proximity to various aspects of your life. Simply put, digital stress is a negative reaction to things like emails, texts, social media conversations, direct messages, or online forums. With technology advancing so quickly and becoming such a big part of our lives over the last few decades, researchers have been increasingly curious about the impact these digital tools have on our daily lives. Through the exploration that has been conducted thus far on this topic, researchers have identified two specific types of digital stress.
1. Type 1 Stressors: Cruel or Demeaning Messages Online
This type of stress comes from relational hostility being brought into the online space. For example, someone leaves a comment on a photo you posted criticizing your appearance or you see that someone else posted humiliating comments or images about you or someone you care about. This type of digital stress also includes security concerns like someone accessing your information through hacking or phishing
2. Type 2 Stressors: Stress Arising from Relational Connection
This type of stress occurs from attempts to use technology to form and maintain close relationships with others. Examples of this type of digital stress include things like feeling smothered because someone is overwhelming you with messages, being pressured to give someone access to your accounts or private images and information, and someone accessing your digital accounts or devices without your knowledge or permission.
In addition to these two official types of stress, there are other things about living life in the digital age that can add stress to our lives without us realizing it, such as…
- Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). With our social media feeds constantly being updated and new channels consistently pushing out the latest news stories, the integration of digital tools into our daily lives can quickly cause us to feel like we may miss out on something important if we log off for too long. The constant fear, competition, and comparison that the online environment fosters can pile on top of your daily stressors without you even realizing it.
- Being Distracted and Disconnected. Online environments like social media are built in a way that encourages us to keep coming back for more, which can easily pull us into spending more time paying attention to our phones than we do to the physical world around us. Meanwhile, while you are online, you are also seeing constant reminders that we should put our phones down and be present. The combination of being distracted and being reminded that we should stay present with our loved ones can cause conflict in our minds, which naturally leads to feelings of stress.
- Information Overload. Easy access to the internet comes with a lot of perks. One of the broadest benefits is that we have access to an abundance of information right at our fingertips. However, this single benefit is also a big downside because it leads to information overload. When we have a constant stream of information being sent to our digital devices, it’s easy to get distracted from the task at hand, start multitasking when we shouldn’t be, and become overwhelmed with an abundance of news updates that we don’t necessarily need to know about.
- Constant Availability and Work-Life Balance. Today, technology makes it easy for people to work from home or anywhere else in the world we have access to the internet. While this opportunity is fantastic for many parts of our lives, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that it also means we are constantly available. We see our work emails come through immediately and feel pressured to answer them. We can take conference calls from wherever we are, which means we are more able and likely to join a meeting even if we’re on vacation. And, even if we don’t work from home, we can still get a call or text from a coworker in the evening or on the weekend. Technology has made us able to be constantly available, which may come with many benefits but also makes it much more difficult to step away from your work and find a healthy, comfortable work-life balance.
- Impact on Health. Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention the stress caused by how constant technology use can impact our health. Staring at our computer or phone screens for the majority of the day can lead to eye strain, poor posture, reduced physical activity, and sleep problems, which all have the potential to negatively impact our overall health. When these negative changes in our bodies are noticed, it can lead to feelings of stress or anxiety about what is wrong and how we can fix it, especially if you don’t connect the dots and realize that these issues are likely stemming from your technology habits.
Tips for Coping with Digital Stress
Needless to say, the technology we know, love, and use on a daily basis brings a lot of positives to our lives, but if we aren’t careful, it can also be a large contributor to our stress levels. So, what can you do to be more mindful about your technology use and limit your digital stress? Here are some tips.
1. Time Management and Boundaries
It’s important to balance your time on and off the screen. There should be times throughout your day when you set your devices aside and enjoy a little screen-free time. Some of the best times to do this include an hour or two before heading to bed, first thing in the morning, lunch breaks, dinner time, and any social activities you choose to attend. This way, you won’t immediately know when an email or phone call comes through, so you will be much less tempted to respond or finish and send that report outside of work hours.
If your job requires you to spend most of the day around your computer, you can try implementing some kind of rule for yourself that will remind you to step away every so often. For example, you can try a time management technique like the Pomodoro technique that encourages you to work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Alternatively, you can choose to step away from your computer for 10 minutes per hour you are working so you can stretch your muscles and give your eyes a break. An added benefit to either of these techniques is that they are likely to help improve your productivity as well since they allow your mind to take a break at regular intervals.
Finally, if you notice you are struggling to stay off of social media throughout your day, use apps or your phone’s built-in tools to help nudge you away from your phone. There are many options available today that send you notifications to remind you to get off your phone, and some phones even have built-in tools that can disable apps after you’ve used them for a certain amount of time each day.
2. Mindfulness and Meditation
Your mental health is important so you need to take the necessary steps to protect it. This includes activities like meditation where you take at least 5 to 10 minutes from your screen to do breathing exercises, self-guided meditations, or take a walk. You can also practice mindfulness by paying more attention to your digital habits and stress levels so you know when you need to step back and take some extra time away from your screens.
3. Exercise, Especially Outdoors
Spending hours sitting on your computer or lounging on the couch while scrolling on your phone is counterproductive to your health in many ways, particularly because it keeps you sedentary. Combat this, and relieve some stress, by being more intentional about incorporating more physical activity into your daily routine. Step away from your computer and walk around the office. Do a few squats or jumping jacks during your lunch break. Schedule time to do your favorite exercise after work. It doesn’t matter how you decide to do it, the important thing is that you are moving your body regularly throughout the day.
If you want to get more bang for your buck when it comes to both stress relief and physical health, consider taking your physical activities outside. That way you can enjoy the fresh air, soak up some vitamin D, and move your body all at the same time.
4. Prioritize In-Person Relationships
We have become so attached to our screens that it’s easy to feel like we don’t need interpersonal relationships as much anymore, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. As humans, we all need people in our lives that we are close to, feel comfortable with, and can connect with in person on a regular basis. Spending time with people in person not only helps us reduce the amount of time we spend staring at a screen but also helps reduce stress. With that in mind, make time to chat with a colleague in the office, schedule in-person work meetings whenever possible, take a walk with a neighbor, stop by a friend’s house for a visit, or invite a family member out to lunch.
Live the #NewEarthLife
As we continue to navigate an increasingly digital world, it’s crucial to prioritize our mental health and find balance in our use of technology so it doesn’t stress us out and take a toll on our mental health. By being intentional and proactive about how and when we use technology, we can start living a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life. THat’w hy we invite you to join us in implementing the above tips to combat digital stress and live the #NewEarthLife.
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