Unplug to De-Stress

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On the L? Phone in hand. Dinner with friends? Right on the table. Bathroom breaks at work? You guessed it (that’s right, this one even has stats to back it up). It’s as if our phones have become appendages, every-present fixtures. Sure, there are benefits to constant connection; it’s easier than ever to keep in touch with family or reconnect with old friends. But there are drawbacks as well.

“Since we’re connected 24/7, we’re never actually fully at leisure,” Jason Washburn, a clinical psychologist at Northwestern Medicine, says.

The term “contaminated time” has come to define nearly every waking moment of our lives, he says. Checking work emails at home leads to anxiety while checking social media at work can negatively impact our productivity. This results in many people falling into a state of constant stress.

If nature had its way, this is where the flight or fight response would serve us well. We’d either attack what’s stressing us out or run away from it. But as Washburn points out, in today’s world, those are rarely realistic options.

“In most situations, we’re not going to be running and we’re not going to be fighting and so instead, that stress just stays there,” he says. “And it can chip away at our health, both our mental health as well as our physical health over time.”

So why then can’t we just put our phones aside and enjoy the here and now? Why do we have to constantly upload pictures of our meals, babies and pets? Why do we have to share every promotion, break up or funny thought on social media? It all boils down to one thing: we like it too much to let it go.

“We like being constantly connected and why do we like it? Because it’s incredibly rewarding and reinforcing and if it isn’t rewarding and reinforcing, then move on to something else that is,” Washburn says.

That being said, it is possible to unplug, at least some of the time. Washburn suggest people try these tips to disconnect with electronics and reconnect with the present moment:

  1. Set aside times when technology is a no-no. Maybe it means putting phones away during breakfast or dinner with your family.
  2. Turn off all electronics at least an hour before going to bed. By eliminating potential stressors, you’ll sleep sounder.
  3. If you absolutely have to check work emails on the weekend, set aside certain times to do so. This way, you know that from 10am-11am, you can focus on work and work only. But once that clock hits 11am, it’s time to shut off the email and focus on enjoying the rest of the day.

How do you unplug? Tell us in the comment section below!

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