This is Part 2 in a four part series about why the **** we are so stressed. Part 1 was about how worrying about things we can’t control causes our stress levels to escalate (and some simple solutions to help us manage this stress). This week we’re moving on to the next reason…
So here’s the second reason we are so stressed…We never find times to disconnect and slow down…
We are always on the move, consistently going from one activity to another, saying yes when we should consider saying no, always at the mercy of our phones, social media or some other means for us to be reached and remain plugged in.
Now, a large reason I am able to identify this as such a contributor to our stress is because I am on my phone often and if I’m not checking my phone, I’m on my computer. And before you think this is going to turn into a lecture about why phones and technology are bad and shouldn’t be used…please hold on. I think that the technology and our ability to be connected is really a gift in many ways. It’s just that many of us (including myself at times) may need to learn more productive ways to use this technology because it is a true stress contributor.
Why does consistently staying connected cause stress?
Well quite simply we never get a break. And it’s clear that breaks are good…holiday breaks, summer vacation and weekends are all breaks that usually serve to allow us to have some time away from our daily routine. They allow us to have some experiences that we may have not had time for. They give us time to just sit and do nothing (which is perfectly acceptable!). So we can all admit that breaks are a good thing. But do you ever take a real, planned, cognizant break from your phone, social media, computer or television? Most of us would answer that we take a break when we’re sleeping, but I know that I have my phone by my bed and as soon as my alarm goes off, I’m often checking in to see what happened while I was sleeping. And the thing is…nothing ever really happens! I’m just routinely doing this without thought. This cycle keeps me plugged in and searching for the next thing that I can think about, do, compare myself to, etc.
So what’s the solution? How do we disconnect and slow down a little bit?
Because staying connected and smart phone usage in general has been considered an addiction in some circles, it’s clear that we could all probably do some self reflection. So the solution is not to demonize technology, but rather to recognize when it’s causing stress instead of relieving it. One way to do this is to actually make no changes for a few days, and actually log how much time you devote to being on social media, “googling” things, checking email, playing games or any other number of things we do on our phones or computers. Also log when you are using this technology. Is your phone by you and are you engaged with it when you are in the company of others? Are you skipping lunch to spend time with your phone? Are you waking up in the morning and reaching for your phone instead of spending some time easing into your day? Are you in the midst of conversations, half on your phone and half listening to the people who are actually in front of you? Two great books that talk about methods for really starting to understand how we use technology is Mindful Tech by David Levy and Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.
After you take an honest account of how you are connected, start to evaluate if this is the way you want to be spending your time. If you want to make some changes, here are some suggestions for how to simultaneously unplug and slow down.
Tech Curfew…turn off all “gadgets” at a certain time each night. Perhaps around 8 o’clock to give yourself some time to unwind before heading to bed.
Tech Sabbath…Choose a day each week, a couple hours one afternoon or one day per month to truly unplug from your social media, smartphone and computer. Replace this time with an enjoyable activity that you never make time to do like spending quality, undistracted time with your family or friends. Perhaps you can get outside or make time for a creative hobby that you never find the time to enjoy. By scheduling this time, you may be more likely to keep the commitment. By replacing this time with a specific activity, you may be more likely to stick to the schedule.
Tech-Free Mornings…Instead of starting your day with a barrage of emails or social media updates which end up making many of us feel overwhelmed, start your day with a different routine like a 5 minute mindfulness practice, light stretching, journaling, or just eating breakfast without reading email.
Limited Email Checks…this is fast becoming a trend with all people. Because checking email can become habitual, many are opting to only check their email a few set times/day. This means that instead of catching up and responding to emails throughout the day when they come rolling in, emails are only checked and answered at a specific time each day so that other things get attention throughout the day.
So again I want to reiterate that I am in no way beating up on technology. I am not advocating for us to go back to the good old days when smartphones, social media and email didn’t exist. Rather I am advocating for us to consider that the way we each are personally using these devices could be contributing to our stress levels. By always feeling connected, we may never get to experience times of recharging. Each of us needs to decide what is appropriate for his/her lifestyle, but I urge you to at least consider that your technology [over]use could be contributing in some way to your stress level.
Given the amount of energy we are consistently asked to give to our students, our schools and our families each day, we should consider how we can refuel our tanks rather than work from a deficit and always feel that we need to catch up.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of the series “Why the **** are we we Stressed” coming next week. In the meantime, please consider joining us at our closed Facebook Group We are Teaching Well where we empower and support each other to care for ourselves so that we can be our best in our classroom and beyond.