06. January 2020
Do you have the feeling that your life is increasingly determined by digital media? Do you feel stress from constantly looking at your smartphone? You are not alone! Our working and private lives have changed drastically due to digitalization and this does not remain without effects on our well-being and health.
Hardly anyone can get by in their professional life without a laptop, PC, tablet and smartphone. The “normal madness” is exacerbated by digital stress, increasing the risk of burnout.
What creates digital stress?
The study PräDiTec, funded by the Ministry of Education and Research, is entitled “Healthy digital work?! A study on digital stress in Germany” and has comprehensively researched the connection between digital working and health (FIT, 2019). According to the scientific findings, the following factors in particular lead to digital stress at work:
Alarmingly, one in three respondents is exposed to at least one of the stressors, and one in five perceives severe digital stress. The full study is freely available at https://gesund-digital-arbeiten.de/
Even at home, digital stress doesn’t stop
The digital industry goes to great lengths to focus our attention on its apps, using eye-catchers like blue checkmarks, red news ads, flashing lights and push-up notifications. So we are trained to constantly devote our valuable time to our smartphones. So even our free time becomes smartphone time.
Pressure from the smartphone
It’s crazy how the smartphone has managed to influence our lives so much. Circa 20 years ago, very few people had a cell phone; today, according to www.statista.de, 81% of Germans own an Internet-enabled cell phone. Digital communication can sometimes exert quite a bit of pressure: You probably also sometimes catch yourself expecting quick answers to questions and information from the people around you and therefore also put yourself under pressure to respond as quickly as possible.
The expectation pressure of answering immediately, as soon as the smartphone vibrates, becomes higher and higher and digital stress is created! The digital media are therefore not only time eaters, but also pressure makers.
Why we can’t ignore the smartphone
While we are sometimes annoyed with ourselves and others for being so distracted by the smartphone, we still fail to discipline ourselves. This is partly because constant digital communication has made us downright “addicted.” There’s a fear of missing something. Every ring, vibration or flash triggers a pleasant curiosity in us as to who might want to get in touch with us. So looking at the cell phone has a rewarding character that triggers feelings of happiness in us. This in itself reinforces smartphone consumption.
However, our brains are unable to cope with this constant flood of information, as they are very slow to adapt to changing living conditions. So the digital revolution has overtaken our processing ability. This creates stress, which is known to be harmful to our psyche.
High risk of burnout
If high digital stress collides with other risk factors for burnout, the risk of exhaustion increases. It can tip the scales, so to speak, leading to a breakdown.
The aforementioned PreDiTec study found that a high number of different digital technologies in particular intensifies stress. This is because the more new technologies are added, the less employees are able to find out about their application. As a result, uncertainty increases and with it the feeling of stress.
What can we do about rising digital stress? At work, we are often forced to use digital technologies. In our free time, however, we can determine the use ourselves. A good way to take a break from digital media is with the help of a “Digital Detox”.
What does “Digital Detox” mean?
Digital Detox means going on a withdrawal cure from digital media and digital communication for a certain period of time. The period of time and the extent of the renunciation are freely selectable. One conceivable approach is to make urgent phone calls or send important messages, but to leave apps like Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat alone – in other words, everything that is not part of direct and necessary communication.
Why should I do “digital detox?”
Are you aware of the harmful effects of constant accessibility and communication pressure, but don’t yet know exactly how to escape digital overstimulation?
Perhaps it helps to think of Digital Detox as a kind of experiment. An experiment on how it might affect our perception and sensation if we consciously make the decision to do without cell phones, tablets and Pcs and the constant distractions associated with them for a while. We might perceive that we are paying much more attention to our environment and the present moment, leading us to be more present. Read more about the benefits of presence and mindfulness here.
Here are a number of tips and hints that can make a digital detox easier:
Whether you read this article on your phone or laptop: Now put your smartphone out of your hand for a moment or close the laptop. How is actually the weather outside? How does your body feel? Do you need to stretch urgently or go for a walk around the block…?