Recently managed to drop my Blackberry into a cup of tea (device that is, not a piece of fruit). It limped on for a while and then eventually died. As this was my fault, my provider is not willing to give me with a replacement (you can’t blame them really). This has resulted in me buying a very cheap basic telephone, that doesn’t even contain a camera, never mind the opportunity to check my emails. Nowadays this is the equivalent of replacing your car with a pony & trap. You may be wondering what this has to do with stress and mental health? I’ll try to explain. Apart from the initial anxiety & panic of losing most of my contacts list (no, i didn’t back it up, before you ask) and feeling a bit out of touch with my clients, i’ve noticed some interesting developments. You Blackberry owners out there will know all about the lure of that little red flashing light. I’m beginning to realise how much of day i was spending either staring at the screen, or looking to see if the red light was flashing, so that i would know i needed to stare at the screen some more. Of course, there were occasions when this was very useful and practical. But i’m now begining to realise that these occasions were actually few and far between, and most of my time was actually spent engaged in fairly pointless activity. This pointless activity also ensured that i spent increasing amounts of time thinking about work, rather than being fully engaged with what was happening in the present moment. This often resulted in me not listening properley while the wife went through a list of jobs for me, or forgetting the name of a mythical creature my son had just invented. Apart from the obvious stress that these family situations create, i was also worrying about work issues that had occured, or had yet to occur (depression’s about the past, anxiety’s about the future….it’s a classic).
I now check my emails 2-3 times a day on my laptop, and do you know what impact it’s had on my work…….none at all! However, i have noticed a definite reduction in the amount of time i spend stressing and worrying about work, worrying about things that have happened or have yet to happen (and probably will never happen).
It’s long been acknowledged that the rapid advances in technology contribute to increased stress. It’s also true that these advances have had a fantastically positive impact on our lives. Now, i’m not particularly savvy or knowledgable when it comes to technology (still not quite sure what app is?). But neither am i a technophobe. But, you know it’s easy to think that advances in technology are mirrored by advances in the human race. Of course, we’ve achieved an incredible amount, but in many ways (especially when it comes to our emotional health) we’re still cavemen (and cave ladies). Advances in communication technology have been fantastic, but there are downsides. The amount of information we have to deal with is massive and the expectations placed upon us (especially at work) have increased. Relationships are increasingly maintained in a virtual space. We’re also spending increasing amounts of time being distracted from the present and it is an awareness and appreciation of the present that underpins current approaches to stress resilience and the Mindfullness approach to wellbeing.
Increasing numbers of us seem to be interested in discovering what it means to be happy. Part of achieving this, i feel is an awareness and acceptance of human nature. On the one hand we are encouraged to believe that happiness comes from having faster access to increasing amounts of services and information. This is in direct conflict with everything we know about reducing stress and increasing our level of happiness. In that happiness and better emotional health come from slowing down and simplifying our lives. Sorry to disappoint you, but i don’t have the answer to this problem (if i did, i’d be writting this blog from my yacht in the Seychelles). I guess the most important first step for us as individuals, is to accept that there is a problem that we want to resolve. The alternative is to allow ourselves to remain on the hamster wheel, kidding ourselves that we’re actually moving towards a happier place, that always seems just out of reach.
Take it easy out there