It’s no surprise that our reliance on technology is on the rise. Technology has kept us connected and productive during a year of separation and it’s advanced at exponential speed. The downside to our increased use of technology devices, however, is the deterioration of our mental and physical health. Since our use of tech is likely to increase rather than decrease, we need to develop new skills for effectively navigating tech stress. 

Media use in the United States was already at an all-time high pre-pandemic. With the onset of stay-at-home orders, numbers escalated. According to Eyesafe, the average adult spent over 13 hours each day in front of a screen in 2020, an increase of over 3 hours per day from the previous year. Much of this increase was attributed to mobile phone use and television, but screen time for work increased as well. 

As our lives became increasingly sedentary, our health suffered. Effectively navigating tech stress is an important skill to reverse the trend and support instead of harm our physical and mental health. 

Improving physical wellbeing

The authors of Tech Stress suggest that we hold tension all day long when we sit in front of a screen. Some of this tension is physical and some is mental stress. The authors highlight several ways for effectively navigating tech stress.

  1. Be aware of your patterns. Knowing how you sit, when you slouch, or how you lean is a part of learning how to shift your body to a more ergonomically friendly position. Consider videotaping yourself to bring awareness to these patterns so that you can make adjustments. 
  2. Move when intention. It’s easy to sit through discomfort, ignoring it until it causes chronic issues. When you sense pain, respond quickly. Listen to what your body is telling you instead of pushing through the discomfort in the name of efficiency. 
  3. Shift your focus. Use a variety of devices to get your work done. Moving from your laptop to tablet to phone will help your body shift to a different position throughout the day. Use these breaks times to stretch, walk, and rest your eyes.

In addition to these suggestions, be mindful of your eye health as well. Shifting to low blue light solutions, like those provided by Eyesafe, will support the health of your eyes. Effectively navigating tech stress can be as simple as switching your devices to “night shift” to prevent eye strain during the evening hours. 

Improving emotional wellbeing

Effectively navigating tech stress includes shifting our behaviors to support our emotional wellbeing, too. The authors of Tech Stress suggest taking a mental health break once a month. During this day off, stay off your screens. Get outside and enjoy some physical activity. Connect with a friend or family member and unplug from your daily life.  

On your work days, be deliberate about setting up blocks of time that are technology free. Turn off notifications and alerts. Eat your meals without staring at a screen. Spend time talking to coworkers or family and stand or walk while doing so. These intentional periods away from screens will help boost your emotional wellbeing.  

Effectively navigating tech stress will take conscious decision making and awareness for all of us to shift the tide of technology from foe to friend.