The Digital Age & Anxiety: Strategies to De-Stress

Apr 24, 2024 | Healthy Living, Stress Management

It’s 2024 and technology is everywhere we look. We have never been more ‘plugged in’ as a society than we are today. Every day, we are bombarded with a relentless stream of emails, notifications, and digital demands. Most of which are coming straight from our pockets. This constant digital pressure is an energy zapper but also muddles your focus, leaving you feeling more like a reactor than the visionary and leader that you are. The tension mounts, your breath shortens, and the weight of juggling endless tasks becomes suffocating. Sooner than later you are deep in chronic stress. Your health doesn’t have to take the hit, and even though we’re in the digital age, you can get by without the constant connection. I’ll show you how!

 

What is Digital Anxiety?

Digital anxiety, also known as technostress, emerges from an unrelenting digital bombardment that keeps your nervous system perpetually on edge. It is sneaky! It starts subtly: a quickened heartbeat with every ping of your smartphone. A tightness in your shoulders as emails flood your inbox. Dreaming about emails in your sleep… As the digital demands escalate, so does your body’s reaction—your breath shortens, your muscles clench, and a creeping sense of dread takes hold.

This is a physiological stress response—your body reacting as it would to a physical threat. Even though the threat might be invisible, the pressure is ongoing, and it takes a huge toll on your physical, mental, and relational health.

Each buzz and beep chips away at you. This constant state of alert disrupts your natural rhythms of rest and recovery, leading to diminished concentration, impaired decision-making, and a pervasive sense of being overwhelmed, just to name a few. While fatigue and frustration might seem like the main symptoms here, if left untreated, you risk serious long-term issues like burnout, anxiety disorders, depression, and even chronic inflammation

The best thing to do is to pause, recognize your body’s intrinsic alarm bells (signaling an overload) and slow down before the overwhelm has you feeling totally out of control over your own life.

 

Why Are Stress and Anxiety Harmful to Your Health?

Stress and anxiety trigger a whole cascade of issues within your body. When you’re under stress, your body releases high levels of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These are useful in the short term — they increase your heartbeat and send more oxygen to your brain, temporarily boosting energy. This can be life-saving when needed; however, if this state becomes chronic, it becomes majorly problematic.

Prolonged exposure to stress hormones wears down your body’s systems, leading to increased blood pressure and sugar levels. Both of which are risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Your digestive system is also affected, leading to ongoing issues like gastritis or ulcers. Immune function diminishes, too, making you more susceptible to infections while slowing down healing processes.

The constant strain will alter your brain’s chemistry and structure, affecting areas regulating mood, memory, physical and emotional reactions. It increases the likelihood of developing psychiatric conditions like depression or anxiety.

The real kicker here is that stress and anxiety rob you of your sleep. If you don’t get a full 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night, you prevent your body from entering the deep, restorative sleep stages it needs. These are essential for natural detoxification, memory storage, and cognitive function. Sleep disruptions also unbalance your hunger hormones, increasing ghrelin levels. When ghrelin is elevated, you will struggle to stay out of the pantry! Your body will be begging for some quick energy, so any high-sugar, high-fat item in range won’t be a match for your willpower. Stress hormones also notoriously have you craving similar foods, giving you a negative feedback loop that ends in binge eating, feelings of guilt, shame, or giving up on your health journey altogether. 

 

Signs You Might be Experiencing Digital Anxiety

Do you feel edgy or uneasy when you hear your phone buzz but can’t check it immediately? This compulsion to remain digitally connected is a telltale sign of digital anxiety. It might start small, but the need to constantly check your devices can quietly escalate, impacting more than just your peace of mind.

Consider your relationships—are they suffering due to your digital habits? Perhaps you find yourself distracted during conversations, prioritizing a quick reply over a meaningful interaction. This strain on personal connections is a big indicator that your digital engagement is no longer healthy.

Another sign is a change in your daily routines. Maybe you’re skipping meals or choosing screen time over time with family. Or perhaps the thought of leaving your phone at home induces genuine anxiety, a sign that your reliance on digital connectivity is disrupting your normal functioning. Here is a quick list of some of the signs you should watch out for: 

  • Feeling uneasy or irritable when unable to check digital devices immediately.
  • Noticeable deterioration in personal relationships due to digital distractions.
  • Choosing screen time over shared meals or social gatherings.
  • Experiencing anxiety about leaving your phone at home or out of reach.
  • Reduced interest or participation in outdoor activities and physical exercise.
  • Disrupted sleep patterns or insomnia related to excessive pre-bedtime screen use.
  • Compulsive need to check notifications, even during inappropriate or inconvenient times.
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, eye strain, and neck pain from prolonged screen use.
  • Avoiding direct human interactions, preferring digital communication instead.
  • A constant compulsion to capture and share experiences on social media rather than enjoying them.
  • Feeling moody, sad, or stressed after spending time on social media platforms.
  • Relying on digital devices as a primary way to alleviate stress or boredom.
  • Neglecting responsibilities or personal care due to excessive time spent on devices.
  • Significant weight changes due to disrupted eating habits or using mealtime to consume digital content.
  • Increasing isolation from friends and family, favoring digital interaction.
  • Rapid mood swings related to online interactions or digital content.
  • Decrease in work or academic performance because of digital distractions.
  • Feelings of guilt or shame about the amount of time spent online or on digital devices.

Strategies to De-Stress by Reducing Screen Time

In our hyper-connected society, your devices can feel like an extension of your body—indispensable and constantly active. Reducing screen time is a practical approach to alleviating digital overload’s physical and emotional stresses. You can begin to heal and reclaim your health now with these easy-to-integrate strategies: 

Set specific ‘no screen’ times

Establish clear boundaries by defining times when screens are off-limits. This could be during meals, the first hour after you wake up, or the last hour before you go to bed. Creating these boundaries helps your mind associate certain times and activities with relaxation and being unplugged, which can significantly improve your sleep quality and interpersonal relationships.

Use a physical alarm clock

Using a traditional alarm clock instead of your phone prevents the immediate exposure to blue light and notifications first thing in the morning. This helps start your day more calmly and keeps your initial focus on your needs rather than the digital world’s demands.

Establish device-free zones

Identify areas in your home where devices are not allowed, such as the bedroom or dining room. This encourages more meaningful interactions with family and friends and ensures that your rest areas are truly conducive to relaxation. 

Turn off non-essential notifications

Go through your apps and disable notifications that are not critical. By reducing the number of times your phone pings, you decrease the urge to check it. This lowers stress levels by minimizing the constant triggers that pull you out of real-life moments.

Adopt a ‘one screen’ rule

Limit yourself to one type of screen at a time to decrease sensory overload and improve concentration. If you’re watching TV, put away your phone or tablet. This helps maintain focus and reduces the strain that comes from splitting your attention across multiple platforms.

Schedule daily outdoor time

Make it a priority to spend time outdoors every day. Whether it’s a 30-minute walk, gardening, or simply sitting in a park, being in nature can reduce stress, enhance mood, and improve physical health.

Implement app limits

Most smartphones now offer settings that allow you to set daily limits for specific apps. Determine which apps you spend the most time on and set reasonable limits to curb your usage. This reduces screen time while also raising your awareness of your digital habits. Often we spend more time than we like on apps, simply because they are built to keep us engaged and doom-scrolling!

Opt for screen-free hobbies

Invest time in hobbies that don’t require electronics. Whether it’s painting, reading, or playing a musical instrument, spending time on non-digital activities enriches your life, improves mental health, and reduces dependency on digital entertainment. Bonus points if you try something new!

Practice mindfulness and meditation

Regular mindfulness or meditation practice helps you stay present and enjoy the moment without digital distractions. Starting with just five minutes a day can increase your resilience to stress and improve your overall emotional well-being.

Hold weekly digital detoxes

Commit to one day per week where you drastically reduce your digital engagement. Use this digital detox time to connect with others face-to-face, take yourself out on a ‘date,’ pursue hobbies, or simply relax. This weekly practice can reset your stress levels and provide a refreshing break from the digital grind.

 

Your health is your greatest asset. Don’t wait until it is too late to start taking control and change the trajectory of your life. You get to lead by example and live authentically instead of pushing aside your health due to guilt or fear of letting others down. Just because you have electronics doesn’t mean you are obligated to always use them. 

 

If you want more tips, tricks, and potent insights that will help you heal through the power of nature, you’re only a few clicks away! Click here to find out how you can start investing in yourself by investing in your health!

 

 


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