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Is technology driving you crazy?

Spot the signs

by Jacky Lynne A. Oiga

Leo narrows his eyes as he scans the e-mail on his computer. At the same time, he’s with his boss over Skype who is currently in Tokyo for a convention. The video conference lags. He tries to connect again through his tablet. His Blackberry pings, an instant message from his wife then His iPhone rings. He’s so busy multi-tasking that he forgot the 2pm meeting his Outlook calendar reminded him of 30 minutes ago.

This scenario is slowly becoming a norm not just for overworked executives like Leo, but most likely anyone who’s got a 24/7 access to the Internet who suffers from a very real but unrecognized anxiety likeminded individuals call tech-related stress.

However, tech-related stress isn’t entirely caused by technology burnout or, dare we say, addiction. A deeper anxiety occurs when a “user” forgets his/her smartphone at home or data connection conks out at the middle of an hour-long download. People who are used to being plugged in all the time suffers a withdrawal syndrome of sorts that others sometimes relate to ‘kaartehan’ or snootiness.

But psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, author of Driven Distraction, validated that tech-related stress could actually be more serious than what people think.

In an article published in www.health.com, Hallowell associated technology links anxiety or stress to a neurological phenomenon called “attention deficit trait” or ADT. Common symptoms include distractibility, impatience and inner frenzy.

“People with ADT constantly scan the environment for a new ring or buzz,” Dr. Hallowell said. “For them there’s something irresistible about an unopened message. They want to keep opening them even though they know that they’re distracting themselves, taking themselves out of the moment, the conversation.” Hallowell further said these things occur because of heavy tech users’ brains now crave newness and this craving is rewarded with a feel-good squirt of the neurotransmitter dopamine every time their phone pings with a text or emails show up in our inbox.

Yes, a new text, Tweet, email, comment, Like, Follow is now up there with other dopamine-inducing activities like eating, smoking, shopping and sex. Are the neurological effects of spending too much time on the Internet freaking you out? Don’t be. Tech-related stress, in milder terms, is practically just that — spending too much time on the Internet.

If your gadgets and the Internet are stressing you out, the simplest tip is to unplug, even for a little while. Meanwhile, here are other ideas on how to avoid tech-related stress:

1. Spot the signsThe first step in avoiding tech-related stress is realizing and accepting that technology and your precious iPhone 5 is causing you grief. Take note of how much time you spend texting, emailing, surfing and tweeting every day. Now ask yourself, do you really need to post that photo on Instagram at this very moment?

2. Switch off your gadgets before going to bedA lot of people use their Kindles, iPads and phones to help them go to sleep. Research says, this does harm more than good when it comes to getting those much-needed zzz’s. Exposing yourself to light-emitting gadgets at night stifles the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep.

3. Minimize your Facebook breaksWhen at work, handle recreational web surfing to a minimum if it’s allowed. Logging in and out of social networking sites is the root of all sorts of work-related distraction.

4. Set boundariesAny work-related mail should only be answered during working hours. The same goes for personal messages. Drawing the line between these two makes it easier to focus on things happening at the moment, it also decreases the risk of missent correspondences.

5. Impose a gadget-free timeWhen off work, it wouldn’t as hard for you to be inaccessible for a few hours for your sanity’s sake. Try leaving your phone in the car when going for a run instead of using it to listen to music. Leave your phone at home when you go out with your kids so they can have your full attention.

6. Leave a message
If you really can’t afford shutting off correspondents (i.e. your boss), come up with an out-of-office message telling them when you’ll be offline and when you’ll be wired again.

7. Turn off in-app notifications
One of the most unnerving things about linking social networks to smartphones is push notification, especially the ones that you don’t care about. Manage the pings and alerts you get by organizing the notification settings on your phone.

8. Go out and breathe
Sometimes, one of the easiest ways to clear your head from the anxieties of technology is stepping out of your office and breathe. From the trees, or whatever specimen of nature is available outside of your office.