Managing Stress: Coping With an Illusion of Urgency and a Reality of Stress
Email, social media, texting and other forms of communication generate an illusion of urgency and a reality of stress. As a result, many of us are in a state of constant anxiety and stress instead of calm and control.
Digital technology produces a false sense of urgency. Although there is nothing inherently urgent about email messages, phone calls or media postings, our core brain interprets the assaults on our senses as threats and activates the “fight or flight” stress response within our bodies.
Technology has put our bodies and brains on high alert
Besides the temptation to check email every few minutes, respond to smartphones and messaging immediately, and participate in social media on a daily basis, there are additional stress-inducing activities exacerbated, if not caused, by technology.
One is the constant decision-making necessitated by the plethora of choices that confront us – everything from the multitude of products available on the Internet to the endless variety of apps and other downloads that constantly vie for our attention. Others include the increasing demands on our time, the busyness of the people surrounding us, and the health-threatening tendency to multitask in an attempt to cope with the fast-paced digital age that is upon us. This feeling of urgency where urgency rarely exists adds to our distress.
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Stress can negatively impact our both personal productivity and our health
A failure to cope effectively could also result in health problems such as sleep deprivation, high blood pressure, drug dependency or depression. Stress can induce the release of cortisol, and excess cortisol impairs function in the prefrontal cortex – an emotional learning center that helps regulate “executive” functions such as planning, reasoning and impulse control. Recent evidence indicates that the prefrontal cortex also stores short-term memories.
High stress levels are not only associated with poorer brain functioning but may even link to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease according to Dr. Brendan Kelley, neurologist, Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
Gayatri Devi, in his book, A calm brain, claims that in the last decade there has been a 50 percent increase in the use of sleeping pills in adults under forty-five. An item in the January/February, 2016 issue of Scientific American Mind claims that over 8.5 million Americans take prescription sleep aids. These drugs have a range of side effects, including daytime drowsiness, hallucinations and sleep eating.
Managing stress and the stressors: we must control our use of technology
To effectively cope with the increased stress experienced in this digital age of speed, we must first of all control the stressors. This includes developing and adhering to guidelines for the use of technology, such as checking email less frequently, turning off digital technology at a specific times in the evenings, and having digital-free modules of time throughout the day.
Also, we should build stress resistance by building habits such as cultivating friendships, exercising daily, establishing regular sleeping schedules, and limiting working hours.
Finally, we should do our best to avoid multitasking, cultivate a sense of humor, develop a positive attitude, and get into a line of work that we really enjoy.
For a more detailed discussion of controlling technology, refer to Harold Taylor’s eBook Managing the use of technology.
More articles by Bookboon’s author Harold Taylor:
- Why does life seem to go faster the older you get?
- Internal Time Management: Using Your Natural Body Rhythms to Increase Your Effectiveness
- Time Management: Budget Your Time – It’s More Important Than Money!
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