I had enough. The stress I was feeling culminated in me bursting into tears while out at breakfast with my husband. It had been a month since I had been able to take off a full day from work with my job in sales. The constant barrage of text messages, emails, and phone calls had prevented me from being able to get away from work. It was seven days a week and at all hours of the day. I needed a break.
I recently read “The End of Absence” by Michael Harris and his thoughts aligned with mine in the following passage: “I wanted a walk in the woods with nobody to meet. I wanted release from the migraine-scale pressure of constant communication, the ping- ping- ping of perma-messaging, and the dominance of communication over experience. Somehow I’d left behind my old quiet life and now I wanted it back.”
With each new technological advance, we are promised to be able to work less and more efficiently. The problem is that instead of working less, technology has allowed us to pile more on our plates in the same amount of time. It has also created an expectation that people should be able to get in contact with us quickly and constantly. The line between work and personal life is blurred and many of us are struggling to turn work off at the end of the day because it is constantly with us on our smartphones. Even if we aren’t responding to late night emails or texts, we still see them and are already formulating a response in our heads. I can’t help but wonder how this is impacting our health and quality of life.
The constant pressure of communication isn’t just our jobs either; it is also our personal relationships. Haven’t we all had that family member or friend get angry because they were unable to get in touch with us immediately? Often times, we aren’t fully present with the people we are face to face with, because we are more consumed with a person texting or emailing us.
Dr. Carlos Portu discusses how our constant connectivity can negatively affect our health. According to Dr. Portu, “We have evolved into a society that is under a continuous barrage of stimulus — always just a moment away from everyone we know as well as every meaningful source of data available on the World Wide Web. The result: stress, anxiety, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease among many other ailments.” These ailments are not from the phone or internet itself, but from the constant over-stimulation of our nervous systems. It is healthy to turn our phones off and take some time for ourselves. Our bodies were designed for that. Actually being able to turn off and get away is a different story.
There are a few things we can do to help alleviate some of the stresses from our constant connection and work obligations:
- Set an expectation for when people can get in touch with you. I have started changing my voicemail and email responder to let people know if I’m currently unavailable and when I will be returning emails and phone calls.
- Turn off notifications. You can choose to turn off email and text notifications. This can relieve you from the constant pings on your phone. Designate a time to check both of these during the day instead of checking constantly. This can allow for you to be more efficient with your time as you are not getting interrupted repeatedly from the task at hand.
- Turn off your phone or leave it at home.
- Utilize functions on your phone such as “do not disturb” (for iPhone users).
- If you use your cell phone for work, purchase a second phone for personal use only. No contract plans offer choices for phones and cell phone minutes at a one-time fee for as little as $14-$40 (Source: Tracfone). That would allow you to have several months of service with limited minutes. This could be an affordable option for those who need to turn work off and yet still be able to have a phone for emergency use or to be in touch with family.
- We can all start being a little more considerate and respectful of our friends’ or coworkers’ personal time. Can that call or email wait until business hours to be sent?
Having a healthy life doesn’t stop with what we put into our bodies or how we workout, it is also our emotional health. We are in need of a healthy balance between our work and personal lives. We all need time to recharge and relax. We can carve out some time for ourselves that involves peace and quiet, but it isn’t going to happen without being intentional. Pardon me while I go on a nice long walk in the woods, without my cell phone.