In light of World Emoji Day, it feels only appropriate to ponder how our addiction to technology is adversely impacting on our mental health. If you find yourself spending your working day glancing from your phone to your computer and back again, you may have experienced overstimulation.
Balancing phone calls, screen time, text messages and other stimuli can alter one’s thought process and behaviors significantly. Overstimulation impacts your ability to learn, establish social connections and it also takes a toll on your emotional wellbeing.
Dr. Russ Poldrack, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, found through his research that attempting to learn information whilst multitasking causes the new information to go to a part of the brain that is less effective at retrieving information on command. Overstimulation impacts your ability to remain mindful, on task and focused on your intention.
Our attention is often divided between dispersed social networks and various sources of stimuli at any one time. This has had a dual impact of allowing us to maintain regular contact with close friends who may have relocated far away, but it also adversely impacts our ability to be attentive to the person across the dinner table. Often the person you are in close proximity to finds themselves competing with multiple sources of stimuli for your attention.
The compromise of the quality of your in-person interactions is only one facet of this social phenomenon. It is also important to consider the emotional strain of experiencing overstimulation on a personal level. Overstimulation impacts our ability to feel in control and fully process the world around us. This loss of control can often induce stress and can prove to be anxiety provoking.
With this in mind, there are coping strategies to deescalate feelings of overstimulation and regain your sense of calm.
Acknowledge when you are feeling overwhelmed, distracted or feeling disoriented. These feelings can often lead to procrastination and difficulty staying on task.
If you can, leave your desk and go for a walk. This act is beneficial even if it is restricted to the indoors. However walking outside or being in contact with nature is ideal.
Give yourself permission to decompress. This involves allocating yourself at least 5 minutes to turn off your screens, closing your eyes and becoming mindful of your breathing.
Ask a friend or partner to lunch or dinner and intentionally make the effort to switch off your device for the entire time. (If you are a Hipster you may feel the impulse to take a picture of your meal and share it on social media before you switch it off). This will allow you to become more engaged in the conversation.
Implement a Digital Sundown
Reducing your exposure to screens before bedtime is an important part of the ‘winding down’ process at the end of the day. It is helpful to begin this practice with 5 minutes of a dedicated screen detox and slowly expand this time depending on your tolerance.
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