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Posted: 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013

Smart ways to stress less about technology

By Shana Lebowitz

Greatist.com

This article is presented in partnership with whil, a new brand created by technical apparel design pioneers, Chip Wilson — founder of lululemon athletica — and his wife, Shannon Wilson. whil is an initiative promoting peace of mind featuring a 60-second meditation program that targets urban professionals who are on the brink of burnout and providing them with the tools to thrive in today's world. We promise nothing. You create everything.

Modern technology certainly has its advantages. We can stalk friends on Facebook and get real-time Twitter updates on Beyonce’s pregnancy. But having access to all these digital gadgets can also be a huge source of stress.

Among people in their early 20s, those who use their cell phones and computers a lot (defined by criteria such as receiving and answering at least 11 phone calls or text messages per day) are more likely to struggle with depression and problems sleeping, especially if they see that technology as stressful in the first place [1] [2]. And sometimes we can grow so comfortable with swiping and tapping that not having access to digital technology can be a whole other source of anxiety. One survey of United Kingdom residents found that nearly half of respondents said they would be more stressed if they couldn’t surf the Web than if they were cut off from television or from basic utilities.

The worst part is that stress doesn’t necessarily disappear the minute we put our iPhone back in our pocket. People who feel overwhelmed by technology tend to be more dissatisfied with their lives in general.

The good news is there are at least 24 solutions to these issues, and none of them involve living like a Luddite. Email, texting, and social media shouldn’t drive us crazy — they should be tools to help us connect with people when and how we want. Read on to find out how to reduce the stress associated with modern technology — and don’t forget to share your favorite tips in the comments section.

Digital Down-Low -- Your Action Plan

1. Sleep soundly.
Stop using the phone and computer a few hours before bedtime — the light from digital gadgets can interfere with our ability to fall and stay asleep. When it’s finally time for snoozing, keep those gadgets somewhere out of reach so you won’t be tempted to start emailing or online shopping (or sleep-texting!) from between the sheets. For a better way to unwind, pick up a (hard-copy) book or magazine. May we suggest Goodnight Moon?

2. Spread the word.
Once you’ve decided on some email- and phone-checking rules to keep you sane, let other people know about them. For example, tell coworkers, friends, and family that you won’t be checking email or returning calls after 8 pm so no one freaks out thinking you’re MIA.

3. Ease in.
We’re tempted to tell you to leave the phone at home all day, but we’re also not trying to induce a series of panic attacks. Instead, ditch the digital stuff gradually by first placing the phone in another room for a few hours and then running errands without it. For those worried that they might need the phone in case of an emergency, consider texting a friend before leaving the house to let them know where you’re going so that if anything does happen, someone will know where to find you.

4. Pack it up.

“Phantom vibrations,” or the feeling that our phone is vibrating when it’s not, is a relatively new phenomenon. We can be walking down the street when a slight breeze blows past us, and suddenly we’re convinced that our phone is blowing up in our pocket. Instead, consider keeping the phone in a backpack, where vibrations can’t be heard or felt.

5. Shut it down.
Once you’ve designated those gadget-free time periods, be even bolder and turn the phone off completely. (Yes, checking into a restaurant on Foursquare counts as having the phone on.) Unless you’re expecting an important phone call or email, you’re probably just wasting the phone’s battery life by keeping it on all the time.

6. Face the filters.
Most email programs have options to filter out certain emails from the inbox based on addressee or subject line. Consider filtering out everything except relatively urgent messages (e.g. email from the boss), so that messages from friends, family, and coworkers don’t fill up the inbox and distract us from other tasks we might be working on. When it’s email-checking time (see number one), go in and check those non-urgent folders. Also consider setting up separate accounts for work and personal emails so you won’t be tempted to read the latest gossip from your BFF in the middle of a staff meeting.

7. Shut the windows.
We may think we have an unlimited attention span, but research suggests multitasking is actually detrimental to our productivity [3]. Moreover, multitasking can actually trigger the release of stress hormones. When possible, stay calm and focused by working in just one window at a time. (So if you’re writing, Microsoft Word should be open, but the web browser shouldn’t.)

8. Don’t dawdle.
An overflowing inbox is no place to hang out. When an email comes in, spend just three seconds deciding what to do with it: respond, delete, archive, or add its contents to a to-do list. It’ll save precious time and brain space for projects that actually require a lot of attention.

9. Take off.
Research suggests taking an “email vacation,” or a few days without looking at the inbox, can actually reduce stress and boost productivity. Try it out over a long weekend and make sure to let everyone know you won’t be available.  (See number two.)

10. Press pause.
You’re watching a movie, totally engrossed in the romantic attraction between Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman, when suddenly the urge to check your phone strikes. Before whipping it out, stop and think about what you’re going to gain from checking, instead of waiting until the lovebirds finally get together (or don’t). That five-second-long pause is a great opportunity to realize that refreshing our inbox yet again probably isn’t going to make much of a difference.

11. Be present.
“Mindfulness” is a big buzzword these days, but the term has a lot of significance in our always-accessible age. During conversation with a friend or coworker, make a conscious effort to actually pay attention to what he/she is saying, instead of half-listening and half-scrolling through Twitter. It’s a way of ensuring that we genuinely get something out of every interaction.

12. Get your game face on.
When out with a group of friends, play the “phone-stacking” game. Everyone puts his or her smartphone in the center of the table, one on top of the other, and no one’s allowed to touch the pile. The first person to reach for their phone has to pay the whole bill!

For the full list of 24 smart ways to stress less about technology, go to Greatist.com.

 


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