This is Part II of a two-part series on stress management techniques. Read part I here.
So much of the stress we experience on our daily levels boils down to the way we use technology. We’ve grown so attached to our devices that our brains are now accustomed to perpetual information overload.
Between social media, news alerts, and dozens of chat apps, our brains are being continually overstimulated all day long. That’s not even counting work-related phone usage. Additionally, many of us own other devices like laptops and tablets) which augment this overstimulation.
According to The Huffington Post, a 2012 study by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that heavy phone and computer usage is linked to higher stress levels. It’s also linked to increased susceptibility to sleep disorders, and even depressive symptoms.
In other words, if you want to feel less anxious and stressed, you need to decrease your phone and computer usage. It isn’t as unworkable as it sounds; here are two ways to do just that.
P.S. You can’t totally eliminate stress, but you can learn to use it to your advantage; find out how with SSA Academy’s WSQ course on developing personal effectiveness!
Let’s face it: most of us are addicted to our smartphones. It’s the first thing you check when you wake up in the morning, and the last thing you check before you go to bed.
The problem isn’t so much that we don’t know how harmful this habit can be to our health (and sanity.) It’s more that it’s hard to wean yourself off the habit. Here’s the thing, though: cutting out any negative practices isn’t always about going cold turkey. Sometimes, it’s just about gaining some perspective.
How many times have you gone to bed with your mind still racing, although your body is exhausted? You end up waking up in the morning feeling even more tired and stressed because you’re not well-rested.
When our phones are the first and last things we see before and after sleeping, we’re depriving our minds of the ability to properly wind down (at night) and wake up (in the morning.) For one thing, the blue light from our devices can trick our brains into thinking it’s still daytime, thus tampering with our natural bodily rhythms and making it harder to fall asleep. When you do eventually fall asleep, the quality of your sleep is adversely affected.
The cumulative effect of this, according to a 2015 Harvard study, is that neither your mind nor your body gets enough time to “recharge,” (unlike your phone, which will be at 100% when you wake up.) Consequently, your creative and problem-solving skills suffer, and so does your ability to concentrate. When this happens, you get even more stressed because you can’t be as efficient and productive at work as you know you can.
For that reason, Huffington recommends making sure that you charge all of your devices outside of your bedroom. It might seem like a small change, but it goes a long way in segmenting your work from your life, not to mention the fact that it respects your natural mental and physical needs for daily recuperation.
Taking it one step further, you could even consider a digital detox. It’s exactly what it sounds like: cutting off your access to technology for a given amount of time to focus on de-stressing and winding down. If you’re skeptical about it, consider this: it’s a common practice in Silicon Valley.
Technology sabbaths, for instance, require you to abstain from technology for 24 hours. Most people do it from Friday night to Saturday night. Alternatively, you could abstain just from screens or digital device usage.
Others take a less extreme approach but ensure that they have at least an hour of technology-free time every day. Both iOS and Android devices have built-in settings that allow you to track and manage your daily screen time. Once you’ve set a limit on how long you spend on a given app, your phone automatically cuts off access to those apps.
The point is, instead of being fixated on screens, find something stress-relieving to do with your time.
For example, it’s been scientifically proven that spending time in nature decreases your stress levels and improves your ability to concentrate. The Japanese, for one, call this “forest-bathing”; when you use your five senses to absorb the beauty of the forest. A 2010 study on the effects of forest-bathing found that it significantly reduces stress levels, lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, and calms your mind down.