Just this past week, I’ve seen a pedestrian so engrossed by his cell phone that he barely missed getting hit by traffic as he walked into an intersection. Luckily, the crisis was averted by the helpful people nearby – but this preoccupation with being “plugged in” is nothing unusual, nowadays.

Over the years, I’ve also seen technology ruin relationships: “He pays more attention to his device than he does to me”; ruin careers: playing video games when they should be working, or stalling on social media using a company computer; and of course, effecting health: headaches, poor sleep, neck and vision issues – and more.

There’s no debating the many benefits that technology has afforded us. Most people wouldn’t give up their technology – nor should they. However, for many people, technology is in fact the epicenter of their stress, in my opinion. It distracts them, creates an alternate world in which the number of “likes” equals self worth, floods peoples’ brains with stimulation, and can make haters out of people, instill fear in others, and feed general paranoia. Simply put: technology feeds stress today, and it’s a problem.  

The link between technology and stress is something I see every day in my practice, and according to results of a recent survey conducted by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, 87% of the respondents report that turning off alerts on their devices (email, social media and news) would help them to truly get away and relax. Note that this statistic is double what it was the previous year. Technology-induced stress is on the rise, and as we enter National Stress Awareness Month, it’s important to look at ways that you can have a healthier relationship with technology and your devices moving forward.  

Here’s how:

1. See technology for what it is. Phones and devices provide a way to communicate, gain information, read news, and participate in some mindless fun. They’re not your friend, they don’t define you, make you more appealing to others – and they must not rule your life. Technology is merely a means to an end.

2. Do things in real life.  Prioritize people and real life human interactions over that of phones. There’s an element of communication that simply isn’t captured when texting. Emotion is often missed, overlooked, or even miscommunicated and misunderstood.  When possible, pick up the phone, and get back to that lost art of communication: talking.

3. Place less importance on documenting your experience. According to the Enterprise survey, when participants were asked why they want to escape more in 2018 than in 2017, social media served as one of the top answers (nearly 25 percent!) Don’t let your desire to snap or send a picture or a text prevent you from enjoying a priceless moment in time that can only be captured with your naked eye.

4. Wean yourself off your device.  For many people, phones have become their emotional pacifiers. Embrace the idea of not being bound or reliant on technology, and practice using it less. Try reducing screen time by a few minutes every day and filling that time with enriching and fulfilling activities: exercise, talking to a friend, reading, taking a relaxing drive, etc.

5. Create a device-free zone.  Have a period of no phone use – specifically, turn it off at night. By designating a certain area of your home and time free of technology, you’ll connect better with family and set yourself up for a healthier night of sleep. So, keep technology out of the bedroom, and try to eat meals without your device in hand.

While there’s no doubt that technology has made life easier by affording many conveniences and instant access to the world, it has also made us less reliant on our own brain power. I’m in no way suggesting people should part with their smartphones – but I am suggesting that people become more aware of how their devices might be hurting rather than helping, and consider ways to strike a balance between technology use and reliance, as they look at ways to improve their overall health and wellness this April, in honor of National Stress Awareness Month.

Written by the author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days

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  • Jonathan Alpert

    Psychotherapist, executive performance coach, and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. Twitter: @JonathanAlpert

    Jonathan Alpert is a psychotherapist, columnist, performance coach and author in Manhattan. As a psychotherapist, he has helped countless couples and individuals overcome a wide range of challenges and go on to achieve success. He discussed his results-oriented approach in his 2012 New York Times Opinion piece, “In Therapy Forever? Enough Already”, which continues to be debated and garner international attention. Alpert is frequently interviewed by major TV, print and digital media outlets and has appeared on the Today Show, CNN, FOX, and Good Morning America discussing current events, mental health, hard news stories, celebrities/politicians, as well as lifestyle and hot-button issues. He appears in the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job commenting on the financial crisis. With his unique insight into how people think and their motivations, Alpert helps clients develop and strengthen their brands. He has been a spokesperson for NutriBullet, Liberty Mutual insurance, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Jonathan’s 2012 book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days has been translated into six languages worldwide. Alpert continues to provide advice to the masses through his Inc.com, Huffington Post, and Thrive columns. @JonathanAlpert