December 08, 2014

Screen shot 2014-11-04 at 10.28.48 AMBy Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW

Pay attention. What emotional reaction do you get when your e-mail ringtone goes off on your phone? Excitement? Dread? Concern? Although the use of technology is important in our society, we also seem to be having emotional reactions. Perhaps the average teenager gets a little rush or sense of excitement when they hear their text ringtone. The average 30somethings working on Bay Street may notice their stomachs clench at every e-mail alert. Why? It seems that the more an event happens (stressful late night e-mail) and there is an alert that we associate with it (cell phone “ding”), we pair the two together, making the alert set off the reaction that the event would have set off… However, the alert in itself is nothing about which to be stressed. But we are! Like Pavlov’s dogs, we are creating associations. When they are attached to our phones — which are always attached to us! — it seems to lead to a stress response overload that may very well be unnecessary. Just because you hear your e-mail alert at 9:00PM doesn’t mean that you’ve been assigned a new work task; but you may fear that you have. So your notification from amazon.ca or your Evite from Aunt Sally to a holiday party gets the same reaction from you — probably one of stress or anxiety — that is unnecessary. Why is this a problem? Well, we all seem to have enough stress in our lives without creating extra, unnecessary stress from being afraid of our phones!

The good news is that this stress can be avoided. At a designated time during the evening (I’d recommend between 7:00-8:00PM), silence your phone’s notifications. This way, you can check your phone at your leisure without feeling dread if your ringtone goes off. Also, you will easily see and identify where your e-mail is coming from, rather than agonizing for the short period between hearing your ringtone and actually checking your phone. The bonus of this tip is that you may feel like you’re getting your evenings back and detaching from your phone! While this is scary for some, many find it a welcome change from being constantly “plugged in” or overly available. Try this simple solution for one week and notice how you feel by Friday.

Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI.  Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at lauren@laurenberger.ca, or follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW.

main image from Flickr via Creative Commons.


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