By: Sydney Callahan ’15, University of Maryland Health Center, HEALTHWorks Peer Educator
Technology has lots of advantages. Being able to check your e-mail while walking to class, FaceTime your sibling who lives 10 hours away, and get real-time updates on the football game you are missing are all amazing things you’re able to do on your phone.
However, this instantaneous culture that we now live in can add a huge amount of stress to our lives, leading to poor mental and physical health.
Constantly checking your social media accounts and responding to e-mails and text messages the second they enter your inbox can leave you in a frantic and stressed state.
A recent study on the cell phone use of young adults found that being accessible 24/7 and receiving at least 11 phone calls or text messages per day is associated with stress, sleep disturbances and symptoms of depression.
If you feel like your smartphone, computer, and other mobile technologies may be taking over your life in a negative way, here are 5 tips to help relieve the stress you’re feeling.
5 Tips to Help Relieve Stress Associated with Technology
- Everything in moderation.
Too much of anything can be detrimental to your health. You do not have to respond to 20 emails a day or scroll through your Twitter feed every hour. The world will not end if you wait a day to RSVP to an event on Facebook or reply to your friend’s text message about your plans for the weekend. You will have more time to relax and your stress will decrease if you recognize that it is impossible to keep track of everything occurring in the world every day.
- Schedule a time to turn it off.
Pick a time every night to turn off your phone and computer (preferably 30-60 minutes before you go to sleep). This simple act of unplugging will help you get a better night’s sleep. Research has shown that using electronics near bedtime can alter your sleep-wake cycle to make you stay up later and decrease the release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.
- Remember: “The best things in life are not things.”
Practice mindfulness. Try walking to class without listening to music, texting someone, or checking your e-mail and just notice everything that is happening around you. Our campus is beautiful, but few people notice how wonderful it is! Extensive evidence has shown that practicing mindfulness, or being present in the moment, can lead to increased happiness, but can also improve your immune response, reduce stress and increase the quality of your sleep.
- Play the “phone stack” game.
When you go out to dinner with friends or family, have everyone stack their phones in the middle of the table. The first person to take their phone out of the pile has to pay for the entire bill and if the check arrives before anyone takes their phone, then you all just pay for what you individually ordered. Even if it is only for a few hours, your stress will decrease if you are present in the moment and you will have more fun catching up with your friends by playing the “phone stack” game.
- Reach out when you need to.
Ask your friends and family for help if you think your stress level from technology is negatively impacting your life and you are having trouble controlling it using just the tips above. If you want to talk to someone more privately, stop by the Counseling Center, make an appointment with Mental Health Services or sign up for Relaxation Training at the University Health Center.
You don’t have to get rid of all of your technology in order to decrease your stress. Simply altering your habits when it comes to technology use and knowing when it is time to unplug will have a positive impact on your well-being!
Share your ideas! What should be tip #6?