In today’s world, we’re more connected than ever to pretty much everything. Friends, family, and our jobs can communicate with us in an instant. News, sports scores, politics, and other current events are in our faces every time we pick up our smart phones. In a world where staying connected is key and where more information means more knowledge which, we’re told, leads to greater power and productivity, it can be easy to get completely tied to our devices. More and more though, many are realizing that there might be such a thing as being too connected. Sometimes, we can actually be more productive by making sure we have some down time every now and then. Sometimes, the key to being truly connected is to disconnect from tech every once in awhile. A number of recent surveys and studies have found that our nearly compulsive need to stay connected is having a negative impact on our stress levels and relationships with those around us.
Most of us can’t resist the urge to check our phones the minute we get a notification and/or can’t go more than an hour without checking our phones. The worst part of this is that we’ll stop whatever we’re doing to get our fix. Worse yet is that most people admit that this compulsive phone-checking behavior actually makes them feel worse, not better. These negative reactions can come from seeing news coverage that’s depressing, posts from friends that can lead to feelings of annoyance or even jealousy, or a message from work that could have waited. Some people even report feeling aggravated or distressed by checking for updates and not finding anything worth noting. All of this adds stress to our already stressful lives, which is why many people actually list their phones or other always-handy devices as major sources of stress and negativity in their lives.
In addition to making us feel worse, staying too connected to the world of technology has led more and more of us to spend more time online and less time in our own lives. Our friends and loved ones are our best support system and our best weapons for helping us deal with stress. So, adding more stress to our lives while squeezing out those who help us deal with stress is a recipe more even more stress, which is no good.
So, if you’re thinking that you’re one of the millions who might be doing yourself more harm than good, there are some things you can do to help unplug. Or at least give your devices a longer leash. First, honestly evaluate how you feel the next time you interrupt a perfectly good time to check your phone. Do you actually feel like you accomplished something, or did you just satisfy a compulsion? Chances are, you’ll recognize that you’ve lost more than you gained, which can be a step to helping you “Just Say No” when the urge strikes again.
The next thing to do is make yourself take a moment before reaching for your phone the next time it calls your name. What are the chances that you’ll learn anything that’s important enough to interrupt what you’re doing right now? Are you really having such a bad time right now that you’d rather have the stress that tends to come from looking at your phone? Probably not. If it can wait, let it wait.
Lastly, try making plans that involve spending time with friends and family in the real world. While it may not be practical to leave all of your devices at home, you can, as a group, make a pact to keep your phones out of sight for a few hours. Reconnecting with the world you actually live in can make it easier to deal with the stresses of the rest of the world.