Technology has become an essential part of our lives. We use smartphones and laptops on a daily basis to socialize, work, learn, and entertain ourselves. While technology may make our lives easier and more productive, it can also lead to “technostress,” a type of stress caused by technology.
Stress & Technology: Finding a Healthy Balance
This article will explore the causes and effects of technostress, and provide tips on how to manage it effectively and find a healthy balance with technology. It also includes two free printable handouts for healthy tech habits and stress management.
The Impact of Technology on Daily Life
Internet usage in the United States has grown significantly over the years, with the number of users increasing from 294.53 million in 2019 to 313.6 million in 2022. Over 90% of Americans have access to the Internet today. By 2028, it is estimated that there will be over 340 million Internet users in the US.
Technology has had a profound impact on our lives in terms of communication, information access, education, work, shopping, and entertainment. When used appropriately, technology makes our lives easier. Our smartphones can help us track emails, manage our bank accounts, access the news, and complete a wide range of other tasks.
Technology has revolutionized the way we do things and has become an essential part of our day-to-day activities. However, as a result, many of us are also experiencing technology-related stress.
Technostress: A Modern-Day Epidemic
The term technostress was coined in the 1980s by Craig Brod, an American psychologist, author of Technostress: The Human Cost of the Computer Revolution. Brod originally defined technostress as a disease caused by the inability to cope with new technology.
With the advancement of technology and the invention of new devices, technostress has acquired a new meaning. It is now more broadly defined as any negative impact that the use of tech can have on a person. This can include stress caused by information overload, the constant feeling of needing to be connected, and the difficulty of keeping up with the latest technological advances.
A 2015 study found that Facebook users felt compelled to use the site frequently due to FOMO (fear of missing out) and to maintain their relationships. In 2017, research indicated that the overuse of cell phones led to technostress, with negative consequences for health, work, and personal wellbeing. And in 2019, researchers found that social media users continued to use social platforms despite experiencing technostress, exhibiting excessive and compulsive behaviors, the same way someone with an addiction continues to use despite negative consequences.
What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic has normalized remote work, which has led to an increase in the use of tech devices at home. A 2022 research study indicated that during the enforced remote work period, the use of technology for both work and personal purposes resulted in technostress.
How to Tell If You’re Experiencing Technostress
Technostress can have a significant impact on a person’s physical, cognitive, and emotional health. While the severity of symptoms will vary from person to person, common signs include:
- Increased heartrate
- Cardiovascular and gastrointestinal issues
- Muscle tension
- Skin disorders (i.e., dermatitis, psoriasis)
- Changes in behavior
Technology-induced stress often coexits with other work-related problems, such as “workaholism” and burnout. It can also negatively impact work through decreased motivation and increased absenteeism. In its advanced stages, technostress can cause memory impairment.
Additionally, technostress can cause problems at home. In relationships, it can lead to conflict and disconnection because people with technostress may be irritable, withdrawn, and less likely to engage in social activities.
Technostress & the Importance of Balance
When is the last time you switched your cell phone to “off”? This “always on” culture and the overconsumption of digital media have led to problems such as Internet addiction and issues with work-life balance.
Think of the times when, instead of spending quality time with our loved ones or enjoying a well-deserved break, we’re glued to our phones, checking emails or scrolling mindlessly through our social media feeds. And with the shift to remote working, the line between work and life has blurred, giving our minds less time to rest.
Even kids and teens are significantly exposed to digital technology, which can lead to overstimulation and stress. This highlights the need for a healthy balance when using tech.
4 Strategies for Finding Balance in a Digital Age
To combat technology-induced stress and find a healthy balance, try these techniques:
1. Digital Detox
Being exposed to too much information can be stressful, especially if you’re using your devices the majority of the time. Taking a break from technology for a few days can help reduce stress and provide other benefits, such as improved sleep and mental health.
Here are a few tips to help you take a break:
- Identify what you want to detox from: This could be certain devices, apps, websites, or activities. For example, you might want to reduce your use of social media or stop playing games on your phone.
- Schedule a time away from screens: This could be for a few days, weeks, or even just a few hours each day. If you can’t be away from your devices for work, try to set aside specific times when you won’t use them, such as during lunchtime, after work, and before bed.
- Turn off notifications: Notifications from your smartphone can distract you from your work, personal time, or sleep. Turning them off can help you focus on other tasks or get the rest you need.
- Limit app usage: If you find yourself checking certain apps too often and want to break the habit, use your phone’s settings to limit your usage time.
- Inform your family and friends: If you decide to do a digital detox, tell your family and friends beforehand so they know to contact you on your preferred channels.
2. Mindfulness & Relaxation Techniques
Many of us spend too much time scrolling mindlessly through our social media feeds, putting off other tasks for later. We do this for many reasons, including procrastination, FOMO, or lack of self-control.
Unfortunately, aimless scrolling can make us feel stressed and anxious, especially if we consume negative or distressing content. Additionally, scrolling for large amounts of time can lead to burnout. Instead, we can choose to be mindful of the media we consume. This means slowing down and being intentional about what we search for.
Young people who are affected by technostress can also utilize stress management techniques to improve their mood. If you have children and teens, ask them to practice these strategies on a regular basis to help center themselves.
For example, if they are suffering from information overload, they can try guided imagery, a type of meditation where they visualize a peaceful place to calm their minds. They may also benefit from using stress management handouts and worksheets, such as the ones below, to learn how to manage and reduce stress.
Free PDF: 9 Stress Management Techniques
Free PDF: Healthy Tech Habits for Managing Stress
3. Time Management
If you find yourself overusing your devices every day, causing you to neglect other tasks, consider developing your time management skills. Here are some tips:
- Identify your time usage: Track how much time you spend on each activity, including work, house chores, hobbies, rest, and technology use. You may find that you’re spending too much time on your devices.
- Set boundaries between work and personal life: This means defining your work hours and reserving time for personal tasks, such as social media use. Avoid checking work emails or messages outside of work hours unless absolutely necessary.
- Eat the frog: Prioritize the “frog,” the most important or challenging task on your to-do list. Completing this task first will help you avoid procrastination and free up your energy for other tasks.
4. Healthy Tech Habits
Establishing healthy tech habits can help you avoid technostress. You and your family will benefit from these; it’s a good idea to practice them often.
- Identify tech-free zones: Designate certain areas in your home as “tech-free” spaces, such as the dinner table, bedroom, and bathroom.
- Set aside technology-free time: Schedule tech-free activities throughout the week, such as playing sports, visiting the park, or spending time with family. This will help you reduce stress and prevent burnout.
- Avoid bringing your phone to bed: Using your smartphone before bed can disrupt your sleep. Choose relaxing activities leading up to bedtime instead, such as taking a bath, journaling, or drinking lavender tea.
The Rewards of a Balanced Life
When we use technology wisely, it can benefit us in many ways, such as improving communication, providing easy access to information, making shopping convenient, enabling collaborative learning, and creating opportunities for remote work.
Finding a healthy balance when using technology can improve our quality of life and help us avoid physical and mental health problems, such as technology-induced stress. Additionally, being in control of our tech usage can help us achieve work-life balance, giving us more time for family, hobbies, relaxation, and self-care.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, technology is a powerful tool that can be used to enrich our lives and make them easier. However, it is important to use technology in a healthy and balanced way. The overconsumption of digital media can have negative consequences for our physical and mental health, as well as our relationships and work-life balance.
Finding a healthy balance with technology starts with being mindful of how we use our devices. By following the strategies in this article, we can develop a healthier relationship with technology and use it to enhance our lives, not detract from them. This way, we can enjoy the benefits of technology without letting it control us.
About the Author:
Michael is a licensed clinical social worker with a private therapy practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He specializes in helping children and teens with mental health concerns. He is passionate about providing effective and compassionate care. He is an advocate for mental health awareness, and is the founder of Mental Health Center Kids, a website that provides resources and support for parents, teachers, and mental health professionals who care for children and teens.