Remember those commercials that showed a large white egg (This is your brain), followed by the egg being cracked in a frying pan (This is your brain on drugs)? Well, that’s how I felt about technology, and my brain on technology, when I learned about technostress. Have you heard of technostress? Do you suffer from nomophobia? Are you already feeling a bit nervous by my questions? You’re not alone. Technostress is defined as “a modern disease of adaptation caused by an inability to cope with new technologies in a healthy manner.” You may experience it in one of two ways: struggling to accept computer technology, or over identifying with and relying on technology.
I did a little test on myself and here’s a typical day for me. 1) Make coffee and read on my Kindle and phone, 2) Workout on the treadmill while watching a TV show on my phone, 3) Shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, 4) Work on my laptop answering emails and texts, 5) Eat lunch, often while watching something on a screen, 6) Back to work on my laptop and phone, 6) Help Aria with her homework on her Chromebook, 7) Eat dinner, 8) Read to Aria/bedtime routine, 9) Watch TV with my husband. As you can see by the highlighted areas, only three out of nine daily tasks don’t involve technology. Over two-thirds of my day involves screens. No wonder the other day I freaked out when I realized I didn’t have my cell phone with me. I was experiencing nomophobia = the fear of not having our mobile phone with us.
Being sufficiently curious, I found a very helpful article from King University (yes, I found it on a screen … argh!!). Studies are still preliminary, but researchers have likened technostress to addictive behavior, even citing symptoms of craving and withdrawals. Some of the symptoms identified appear in these four areas.
|Physical Headache Difficulty sleeping Sore muscles in neck, back shoulders Inability to relax||Emotional Panic/anxiety Helplessness Feelings of isolation or frustration Anger|
|Mental Increased work errors Difficulty concentrating Mental exhaustion Negative attitude toward computers||Other General burnout Less time for sustained thinking Work/life imbalance Reduced job satisfaction|
This is not to alarm you or to cause you to think technology and computers are bad. It isn’t and they aren’t. It is to create an awareness that as we continue to have a strong dependency on technology with remote working and virtual environments, technostress may affect our work and life. But take heart! Here are some easy strategies for preventing technostress.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses with regards to technology and take a training to improve your ability (e.g. take a MS Teams or Zoom training).
- Single-tasking (multitasking is a myth anyway).
- Exercise (e.g. take breaks, take walks, climb the stairs).
- Find a non-screen hobby (e.g. drawing, cooking, singing).
- Create digital-free zones or times at work and home (e.g. no screens at dinner, no phones in the bedroom).
- Turn digital devices off when not in use.
Smart phones and other mobile devices are increasingly taking us away from work in the office and direct, in-person contact. We know too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. I hope this information has created new awareness for you. It may have explained something you’re experiencing as we go into the 11th month of working through the COVID pandemic. And this may be what some of you are feeling when it comes to having to learn and use new technologies in these changing times. Remember that it’s ok and necessary to slow down, ask for help and take conscious breaks from the constant connectivity.
Here’s to a stress-free (techno-free) weekend!