I am addicted to technology. In the morning I check my texts, emails, and Facebook — all before my cup of coffee is done brewing. During lunch I check social media while eating my sandwich, and after work I go running with my phone strapped to my arm to track my miles. Technology is amazing and allows us to stay connected with people all over the globe any time of the day or night, makes daily tasks simple, and keeps us entertained during the work-week commute. However, is it possible that this technology overload is adding stress to our lives?
Personally, when I get an email, call, or text, I feel the need to answer it ASAP. Just the thought of letting it sit unread is enough to get my heartrate going. With constant accessibility, when does a workday start and end? How much quality time am I really getting with my friends at dinner when we are all sitting around the table looking at social media and responding to texts? Research is showing that constant use of technology is harming our health. Heavy technology use has been associated with sleep problems, increased stress, and depressive symptoms.
- 29% of people say their phone is the first and last thing they look at each day.
- 14% of people check their phones at least every 10 minutes.
- 69% of people sleep with their phone next to their bed.
- 66% of people said that if they had to choose, they would take their phone to work over their lunch.
- 17% of people check their phone at every meal.
Soon I will be going on vacation, and I am going to use the week away to unplug a little bit. I’ve set up a few guidelines to ease myself into using technology less and enjoying myself a little more. Here are a few simple ways I plan to start:
- Designate a time off: Have a designated tech free time each day, even if it is only for an hour each day. Use the time to take a cell phone free walk, read a book, or enjoy dinner with your family. Want a challenge? Try going a whole weekend day without your phone!
- Designate a time on: Have a designated time to check your email at home after work hours or on weekends. Constant accessibility adds extra stress and can make it seem like work never ends. Enjoy your downtime!
- Restaurant roulette: If you go out to dinner with friends, play a “no cell phone” game. Whoever touches their phone during dinner has to pick up the tab.
- Tech free zone: Take the TV and phones out of the bedroom. I realize this one will be hard for a lot of people; however, the benefits are great! Lights from electronic devices make it harder for us to fall asleep and get quality sleep. Keep technology out of your bedroom to relax more and sleep better.
- Keep your phone on silent: Email pings and text alerts have a way of controlling you. Turn off the sound to take charge of when you use your phone.
- Wake-up call: Get an alarm clock. Using a phone as an alarm clock can tempt you to check emails or Facebook first thing in the morning. Use a real alarm clock to keep yourself from “plugging in” the moment you wake up.
- Time check: One of the top reasons I check my phone is for the time, which sucks me into checking social media, emails, and apps. Wearing a watch can eliminate the need to have your phone 24/7.
Christine Jazwinski is an On-site Health Coaching Intern at UPMC Health Plan finishing up her Master’s degree in Clinical Health and Fitness at the University of Pittsburgh. When she’s not teaching group exercise or fulfilling her responsibilities as a Graduate Assistant in Pitt’s Department of Health and Physical Activity, Christine enjoys going on a run or finding new places around Pittsburgh to eat.