Draw the line, with technology

INFORMATION OVERLOAD

When was the last time you laughed out loud? No, typing out LOL on a text message or email does not count! The kind I’m referring to is loud, gut-wrenching, rib-tickling laughter, which leaves you relaxed and happy.

Probably, many of you just cannot think back to a time when you did that. It’s not surprising because most of us are techno-stressed – a special type of stress caused by too much technology. This is a direct result of being constantly ‘available’, juggling multiple tasks and sorting through a pile of information. Take the next few minutes to stop and see if you have too much techno-stress in your life.

Professor Larry D Rosen, PhD and an expert in techno-stress, says technology can be the root cause of irritation, frustration, stress and sleeplessness.

Technology can indeed be a blessing and is a great time-saver. It can make you work better, and consequently be more productive. However, you have to be able to ensure that it does not control you, by establishing very clear limits.

You can now check messages in the car, respond to mail while shopping, or keep track of the stock market while you are supposedly relaxing. Unfortunately, just because technology makes instant communication possible it is not necessarily healthy. Multi-tasking and information overload are serious threats to peace of mind.

Most of us pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task. However, too much of it can be counterproductive.  A study found that a specific region of the brain handles multi-tasking and it is called branching.

Branching allows you to temporarily divert your attention from the main task to alternative activities and then return to where you left off.

If you are juggling too many things, your brain hangs to these extra thoughts. They could surface at awkward times like the middle of the night. This could result in your brain being ‘wired’, while it’s supposed to be quiet and sleeping. Consequence? Stress.

Probably the single most invasive aspect of technology is its effect on family dynamics. Every household has a desk-top computer, two or three laptops, a cell phone for each member, and the list goes on.  Quite often family members talk to each other from different rooms in the same house by instant messaging or texting. Direct interaction between family members and friends is at an all time low.

Parents need to ensure that they do not relinquish control to tech-savvy youngsters and set boundaries regarding usage of gadgets. And yes, while you’re at it, you may want to “hide” that remote control every now and then.

So, what can you do about techno-stress? Start by restricting yourself to one activity at a time.

The old ditty, ‘One thing at a time and that done well, is a very good rule as many can tell’, still holds good.

*Avoid getting trapped online for hours, ‘looking’ or ‘searching’ for information that you don’t really need.

*Cultivate the habit of saying ‘no’. Having technology at your disposal does not make your time expand infinitely. If you feel you have a full load of work, politely refuse to take on more. And at home, if you are overworked, insist on family members pitching in – you can even make a game of it.

*Get “unplugged” periodically. Believe me, you will survive even if you are away from your “toys”. Make it a habit to watch the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the birds with your cell phone off.

*While we’re on that topic, now that eating out has become so commonplace, how about keeping your cell phone off in restaurants? You may enjoy your meal more, not have to reach out for the antacid and get a good night’s sleep!

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