Northern Illinois University professor Larissa Barber, PhD, coined the term “telepressure” – the urge to respond immediately to work-related messages, no matter when they come.”
A recent study in Time magazine reports: “The majority of US workers (52 percent) check their e-mail during non-work hours, including on sick days. Depending on your employer, it may be an unspoken requirement to respond immediately, but, more likely, you respond right away not because of actual workplace policy but due to a phenomenon known as “telepressure.”
Meshing work and home
The question I would interject is “To what degree is the meshing of your work life and home life affecting your health – mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological?
Prof. Barber’s research found: “…those who felt greater telepressure, and therefore a stronger urge to check and respond to e-mails at all hours, faced some serious consequences.”
Telepressure, in my experience, is a two edge sword – one edge, necessitating the other. On the one hand, our addiction to our devices creates a neurological dynamic in our brains, not unlike addiction, to seek more and more stimulation – checking my iPhone, checking my smart phone, checking my social media sites…non-stop, always seeking more, more and more. It’s the progressive drug that requires ever greater doses in order to satiate.
The other edge is the immediacy with which we feel compelled to reply or to respond. This immediacy often precludes what’s needed in that very moment – time to reflect, time to think, time to analyze and time to step back. This immediacy often results in less-than-optimal choices and decisions. Lose-lose.
Prof. Barber reports that those who engage in this constant state of stimulus and response, face some serious health consequences: worse sleep, higher levels of burnout (physical and cognitive), and increased health-related absences from work.
One unfortunate downside of always being “on” and “available” 24/7, 365 is pure and simple: exhaustion, stress, burnout, rust-out, disengagement and presenteeism (your body shows up, but you don’t).
The constant wear and tear and stress that accompanies always being “on” and “available” has serious psychological effects – suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and other stress-related afflictions such as diabetes, heart attacks, depression, alcoholism and drug addiction.
The body and mind cannot race at 100 miles an hour non-stop and not break down in some way, shape or form. No matter how invulnerable or invincible you think you are.
The challenge for folks today is not how to connect but to disconnect. Our devices have become extensions of ourselves. Folks need to learn how to disconnect from their devices in order to connect or reconnect with themselves.
Other research tells us that spending an inordinate amount of time at night in artificial light, interferes with the body’s production of melatonin which helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. People who use their computer or smartphones near bedtime are more likely to report symptoms of insomnia.
Many folks these days wear “crazy busy” as a merit badge. Many folks regard busyness and “living in the fast lane” as status symbols. These folks seem to think their status is in direct proportion to the number of emails they receive or number of meetings they attend. Writer Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, explains:
“…overwork has really become pervasive. I’m not talking about hard work. I’m all for hard work that we find meaning in. But overwork leaves us burned out and disengaged butts in chairs at work and fried at home without the energy to do much more than flop down in front of the boob tube.”
There are answers, or antidotes, if you’re able and willing to make some choices. Some suggestions:
Create boundaries between your work life and personal life. Plug-in when you’re at work and unplug when you’re not. Coming home and “plugging in” as a way of winding down and relaxing is powerfully self-destructive. To think of “plugging in” as a form of relaxation at home is a delusion, pure and simple. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unplug!
Get your body moving; oxygenate your cells, your brain, your muscles, tendons and ligaments. Exercise reduces and alleviates stress. Exercise is a natural antidepressant.
Spend More Time outside
Being in nature, whether you’re actively running or walking, or gardening or simply sitting is a natural stress reducer. And being outside, unencumbered by your devices, is even more so.
Focus on Your Breath
Research is showing more and more today than mindfulness practice, which includes slow, quiet and deep breathing, can support your mind, body and spirit to be in optimal balance, harmony and regulation. Every cell in your body responds positively to mindfulness and breathing practices. Mindfulness and breathing practices help to regulate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, producing states of inner peace, equanimity, serenity, positivity and the like.
Engage in what you enjoy
Do what you enjoy doing without giving in to yours or others’ critiques or judgments. Have fun.
Watch your diet
First and foremost, do you know the science between diet and health, between diet and energy, between diet and well-being, between gut-health and overall health, between eating early in the evening and eating just before bedtime and how food affects mood, the brain and you nervous system? If not, spend some quality time doing just a bit of research about diet and health. Eat mindfully. That is, dispense with the “mechanical hand” that shoves food in nonstop, unconsciously and focus on the “what” and the “how” when you’re eating. Be as peaceful as you can – in mind, body and spirit – when you eat.
Monitor your emotional state
Continually ask yourself with curiosity (and this is extremely important) and not with judgment or criticism, “What am I thinking?” And “What am I feeling?” Asking yourself these questions on a consistent basis can support you to become a witness, watcher and observer of yourself in such a that you become more and more able to move away from dysfunctional emotional states into states of positivity, stability and well-being. This practice can greatly help to reduce stress and short-circuit the beliefs and the thoughts which take you into the dark or gray places.
Loneliness is a huge stress producer. Set your intention to meet regularly with a good friend (or friends) on a regular basis so you can get “outside yourself.” Explore if there are ways you can serve and support others in some capacity to move out of your mental and emotional ZIP Code. Connection is good for the mind, body and soul.
Take “FSBs” – Frequent Short Breaks.
Get yourself a timer and set it to go off every 30 minutes. When it goes off (be reasonable; don’t plan this exercise if you know you’ll be in a meeting, etc.) and when it goes off stop what you’re doing and take one to two minutes to, for example, just breathe, go for a short walk – inside or out, stare out the window, meditate, walk up and down a flight of stairs, shake your body in place, and the like. Taking frequent short breaks is a powerful way to master your emotions, reduce stress, become more productive and energized, work optimally and otherwise experience a true sense of well-being.
Questions for self-reflection:
- How often are you “connected” to your devices at home? Are you able to “unplug” at home?
- Does your spouse/partner ever react that you spend more time with your phone than with him/her?
- How knowledgeable are you about the relationship between diet and health?
- Are you in good shape…but not in good psychological/emotional/spiritual health?
- On a scale of 1(low) to 10(high) how would you describe your stress level on an average day at work, and at home?
- Do you incorporate any of the suggestions above into your life? How so?
- Do you go through withdrawal when you’re away from your devices for a while? What’s that like for you?
- What’s your relationship with being alone and with loneliness?
- Are you comfortable with silence?
(c) 2014, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.
Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.
What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”
I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.
I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com
You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.