Distracting and addicting tech is a growing epidemic that affects every aspect of our wellbeing.
Its well-known that our smartphones can be a distraction. According to Deloitte’s global mobile consumer survey, 80% of smart phone users check their phones within 1 hour of waking or going to sleep.
‘53% of people look at their phone even when dining out with friends or family’, YouGov 2018.
When was the last time you shut down your phones and electronic gadgets to disconnect and have a conversation?
It’s ironic that as we get more connected digitally or suspended between online and offline , we become more disconnected from ourselves and often the people around us. Some might not realise what’s wrong with using digital products continuously or being constantly connected.
I appreciate and know the online world has saved us in these moments, connecting us with our family members, friends and enabling us to work from home. I think some of us even get great pleasure being online, particularly gaming or watching box sets on Netflix.
What Is Stress?
I guess normal stress in the sense of fight, flight or freeze and the stress that we understand in terms of mental health is different from digital stress because we are designed to react to situations, once cortisol is released in our bodies and we are driven by our adrenaline.
Back in the day when we were hunter-gatherers, we would get up and run and hunt food and now we’re in sedentary jobs, sitting down all day and you don’t need that kind of energy, but fight and flight can be used to kind of be productive and get stuff done.
But when it tips over into being toxic or making us anxious we actually freeze….this stops us doing anything……because we are afraid,
Imagine a gazelle being hunted by lions. When they run, they are much faster than a lion, but actually the way the lion hunts it will hide and then jump out, to try to frighten the gazelle, and the gazelle freezes instead of carrying on running, in which they would most probably get away.
Instead, they turn around and head back towards the lion that is chasing them out of FEAR and often get eaten.Often that is how we are when we’re fearful and when our stress levels are tipped over into anxiety, it actually makes us freeze and react in fear.
Why Is This Different From Digital Stress?
I think the challenges with digital stress is that we are doing too many things, all at the same time. Human beings are not productive when we multitask.
The excessive use of smartphones, digital products & the internet impacts on our cognitive abilities and skills, our attention, memory and how we experience each other.
The boundary between our home and our work is way more skewed than it usually at the moment. And we are staying in our homes way more than we would ever usually, which isn’t a normal remote working situation.
This kind of home working is the kind that is being enforced by the Covid situation. Spending the whole day on zoom and feeling really tired or suffering with zoom fatigue. I’ve heard this a lot, just speaking to clients and individuals.
I think one of the challenges of this is actually, as humans 83% of our communication is through body language and now we’re reading so much about a person from their shoulders and above. Only 10% of communication is tone of voice and then 3% actual words.
So, now we’re completely dependent on that 13% to communicate. It’s no wonder that we feel absolutely exhausted after being on Zoom calls back to back all day!
I just want to highlight two more things; FOMO and Sleep Dysregulation
The fear of missing out, it probably drives all of us not to turn off our phones or to have our work email on our phones. That feeling of needing to be connected and you just can’t disconnect. We’re so used to being connected.
Try to just consider what’s driving that and do you really need to be switched on and connected all the time?
And, then the last thing that I want to talk about is sleep dysregulation, which is impacted by not being in are or usual routines, getting up at the same time, going out to work, but also the blue light in our screens. It interferes with our melatonin and this interrupts our circadian rhythm and makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
If we want to be truly healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally we should care about digital wellness and reducing digital stress, in both our online and offline space. Since technology is indeed useful and it has certainly helped us to maintain connection and keep working, also providing a form of gratification during this quarantine period.
However, this is about bringing balance and having a mixture of online and offline activities. Learning how to use technology to optimise our health and well-being, while connecting to the physical world around us and not becoming a slave to technology, but enjoying both online and offline worlds.
5 Ways To Manage Your Digital Stress?
- I really think it’s important to consider how big your stress bucket because the more you can contain or hold onto, the more resilient that you are. I think one of the challenges is for many of us actually we don’t understand our stresses and so we don’t know what to prioritise or how to prioritise where to give our attention. I really encourage you to understand your stress and manage your own boundaries, be clear on your expectations to your line manager and also to your team because if you’re leading people they will look to you as the example.
- If you’re switched on all the time answering emails 10:00 11:00 12:00 o’clock at night, then they will probably do the same. How do you show up on email? How do you show up on telephone calls? How do you show up now we don’t have those in person connections? How are you showing up for your team or your colleagues or even at home?
- Manage your notifications, don’t worry about missing out if you miss out you’ll catch up tomorrow, it’s fine and so you don’t have to have notifications on for absolutely everything and respond to them immediately the world is not going to end. Not unless you’re a heart surgeon or in some kind of emergency role where you need to respond instantly. I promise you it can wait till tomorrow.
- I also encourage you to schedule offline time put in your diary. And so you turn off all your devices or you put them in another room or you just put them on silent. You don’t have to respond NOW! If you are busy concentrating on a concentrated piece of work because you will be much more productive if you can concentrate on that one thing.
- Many people in this industry call it a digital detox, but I like to call it rest. Keep the Sabbath, it doesn’t need to be on a Saturday Or even on a Sunday, obviously the weekend days are the days that we tend not to work, but if you want to have a rest day in the week, if you break your rest day up into half days, however, you do it but just take that time out get outside, do some activities away from being online all the time.
Learn more from our experts here