Guest Post: Technostress & Your Mental Wellbeing

Technology has become an essential part of our lives. We use smartphones and laptops on a daily basis to socialize, work, learn, and entertain ourselves. While technology may make our lives easier and more productive, it can also lead to “technostress,” a type of stress caused by technology.

Stress & Technology: Finding a Healthy Balance

This article will explore the causes and effects of technostress, and provide tips on how to manage it effectively and find a healthy balance with technology. It also includes two free printable handouts for healthy tech habits and stress management.

The Impact of Technology on Daily Life

Internet usage in the United States has grown significantly over the years, with the number of users increasing from 294.53 million in 2019 to 313.6 million in 2022. Over 90% of Americans have access to the Internet today. By 2028, it is estimated that there will be over 340 million Internet users in the US.

Technology has had a profound impact on our lives in terms of communication, information access, education, work, shopping, and entertainment. When used appropriately, technology makes our lives easier. Our smartphones can help us track emails, manage our bank accounts, access the news, and complete a wide range of other tasks.

Technology has revolutionized the way we do things and has become an essential part of our day-to-day activities. However, as a result, many of us are also experiencing technology-related stress.

Technostress: A Modern-Day Epidemic

The term technostress was coined in the 1980s by Craig Brod, an American psychologist, author of Technostress: The Human Cost of the Computer Revolution. Brod originally defined technostress as a disease caused by the inability to cope with new technology.

With the advancement of technology and the invention of new devices, technostress has acquired a new meaning. It is now more broadly defined as any negative impact that the use of tech can have on a person. This can include stress caused by information overload, the constant feeling of needing to be connected, and the difficulty of keeping up with the latest technological advances.

A 2015 study found that Facebook users felt compelled to use the site frequently due to FOMO (fear of missing out) and to maintain their relationships. In 2017, research indicated that the overuse of cell phones led to technostress, with negative consequences for health, work, and personal wellbeing. And in 2019, researchers found that social media users continued to use social platforms despite experiencing technostress, exhibiting excessive and compulsive behaviors, the same way someone with an addiction continues to use despite negative consequences.

What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic has normalized remote work, which has led to an increase in the use of tech devices at home. A 2022 research study indicated that during the enforced remote work period, the use of technology for both work and personal purposes resulted in technostress.

How to Tell If You’re Experiencing Technostress

Technostress can have a significant impact on a person’s physical, cognitive, and emotional health. While the severity of symptoms will vary from person to person, common signs include:

  • Increased heartrate
  • Cardiovascular and gastrointestinal issues
  • Muscle tension
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Eyestrain
  • Skin disorders (i.e., dermatitis, psoriasis)
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Apathy
  • Changes in behavior

Technology-induced stress often coexits with other work-related problems, such as “workaholism” and burnout. It can also negatively impact work through decreased motivation and increased absenteeism. In its advanced stages, technostress can cause memory impairment.

Additionally, technostress can cause problems at home. In relationships, it can lead to conflict and disconnection because people with technostress may be irritable, withdrawn, and less likely to engage in social activities.

Technostress & the Importance of Balance

When is the last time you switched your cell phone to “off”? This “always on” culture and the overconsumption of digital media have led to problems such as Internet addiction and issues with work-life balance.

Think of the times when, instead of spending quality time with our loved ones or enjoying a well-deserved break, we’re glued to our phones, checking emails or scrolling mindlessly through our social media feeds. And with the shift to remote working, the line between work and life has blurred, giving our minds less time to rest.

Even kids and teens are significantly exposed to digital technology, which can lead to overstimulation and stress. This highlights the need for a healthy balance when using tech.

4 Strategies for Finding Balance in a Digital Age

To combat technology-induced stress and find a healthy balance, try these techniques: 

1. Digital Detox

Being exposed to too much information can be stressful, especially if you’re using your devices the majority of the time. Taking a break from technology for a few days can help reduce stress and provide other benefits, such as improved sleep and mental health.

Here are a few tips to help you take a break:

  • Identify what you want to detox from: This could be certain devices, apps, websites, or activities. For example, you might want to reduce your use of social media or stop playing games on your phone.
  • Schedule a time away from screens: This could be for a few days, weeks, or even just a few hours each day. If you can’t be away from your devices for work, try to set aside specific times when you won’t use them, such as during lunchtime, after work, and before bed.
  • Turn off notifications: Notifications from your smartphone can distract you from your work, personal time, or sleep. Turning them off can help you focus on other tasks or get the rest you need.
  • Limit app usage: If you find yourself checking certain apps too often and want to break the habit, use your phone’s settings to limit your usage time. 
  • Inform your family and friends: If you decide to do a digital detox, tell your family and friends beforehand so they know to contact you on your preferred channels.

2. Mindfulness & Relaxation Techniques

Many of us spend too much time scrolling mindlessly through our social media feeds, putting off other tasks for later. We do this for many reasons, including procrastination, FOMO, or lack of self-control.

Unfortunately, aimless scrolling can make us feel stressed and anxious, especially if we consume negative or distressing content. Additionally, scrolling for large amounts of time can lead to burnout. Instead, we can choose to be mindful of the media we consume. This means slowing down and being intentional about what we search for.

Young people who are affected by technostress can also utilize stress management techniques to improve their mood. If you have children and teens, ask them to practice these strategies on a regular basis to help center themselves.  

For example, if they are suffering from information overload, they can try guided imagery, a type of meditation where they visualize a peaceful place to calm their minds. They may also benefit from using stress management handouts and worksheets, such as the ones below, to learn how to manage and reduce stress.

Free PDF: 9 Stress Management Techniques
Free PDF: Healthy Tech Habits for Managing Stress

3. Time Management

If you find yourself overusing your devices every day, causing you to neglect other tasks, consider developing your time management skills. Here are some tips:

  • Identify your time usage: Track how much time you spend on each activity, including work, house chores, hobbies, rest, and technology use. You may find that you’re spending too much time on your devices.
  • Set boundaries between work and personal life: This means defining your work hours and reserving time for personal tasks, such as social media use. Avoid checking work emails or messages outside of work hours unless absolutely necessary.
  • Eat the frog: Prioritize the “frog,” the most important or challenging task on your to-do list. Completing this task first will help you avoid procrastination and free up your energy for other tasks.

4. Healthy Tech Habits

Establishing healthy tech habits can help you avoid technostress. You and your family will benefit from these; it’s a good idea to practice them often.

  • Identify tech-free zones: Designate certain areas in your home as “tech-free” spaces, such as the dinner table, bedroom, and bathroom.
  • Set aside technology-free time: Schedule tech-free activities throughout the week, such as playing sports, visiting the park, or spending time with family. This will help you reduce stress and prevent burnout.
  • Avoid bringing your phone to bed: Using your smartphone before bed can disrupt your sleep. Choose relaxing activities leading up to bedtime instead, such as taking a bath, journaling, or drinking lavender tea.

The Rewards of a Balanced Life

When we use technology wisely, it can benefit us in many ways, such as improving communication, providing easy access to information, making shopping convenient, enabling collaborative learning, and creating opportunities for remote work.

Finding a healthy balance when using technology can improve our quality of life and help us avoid physical and mental health problems, such as technology-induced stress. Additionally, being in control of our tech usage can help us achieve work-life balance, giving us more time for family, hobbies, relaxation, and self-care.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, technology is a powerful tool that can be used to enrich our lives and make them easier. However, it is important to use technology in a healthy and balanced way. The overconsumption of digital media can have negative consequences for our physical and mental health, as well as our relationships and work-life balance.

Finding a healthy balance with technology starts with being mindful of how we use our devices. By following the strategies in this article, we can develop a healthier relationship with technology and use it to enhance our lives, not detract from them. This way, we can enjoy the benefits of technology without letting it control us.

About the Author:

Michael is a licensed clinical social worker with a private therapy practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He specializes in helping children and teens with mental health concerns. He is passionate about providing effective and compassionate care. He is an advocate for mental health awareness, and is the founder of Mental Health Center Kids, a website that provides resources and support for parents, teachers, and mental health professionals who care for children and teens.

Guest Post: 4 Steps to Avoid Burnout

Providing mental healthcare these days is challenging and can lead to burnout. To avoid burnout, try these four strategies during difficult times.

Times are tough for therapists. Providing mental healthcare these days is challenging. Therapists find themselves in the midst of many perfect storms. Global changes, social unrest, tremendous upheaval, and trauma in the lives of their clients can mirror the struggles in their own lives, potentially leading to burnout.

Being a therapist is a beautiful, noble, and worthwhile undertaking. It is our life’s work. Yet often it is a slog. Clients may report a bit of progress, but then things fall apart. Our efforts to get through to them come up short. We can become lost and hopeless ourselves, watching people we have grown to care about continue to suffer and struggle.

In these situations, compassion fatigue and burnout can become a real risk. When we are worn down and exhausted, it can be difficult to give to our clients. The work that once inspired us can become draining to the point that it impacts our own wellbeing. When we feel burnt out, we need to find inspiration and reconnect to what it means to be a therapist.

Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Inspiration for the Weary Therapist: 4 Steps to Avoid Burnout

Here are 4 accessible steps for therapists to avoid burnout and compassion fatigue during challenging times:

1. Practice Real Self-Care

Self-care is vital for therapists. We learn from very early on in our training that we need to take care of ourselves to care for others. Yet what does self-care look like when you are at a level of weariness and burnout?

When we are in a lot of pain, our output to input ratio changes. If we are guilty of giving too much to our clients and not receiving enough from our lives, then we need to change the way we think about healing so that we do not give more than we take in. We must be okay with simply being present with our clients. We do not need to move mountains or do the work for them. As a therapist, you have to care for yourself too. We must strive for a healthy work-life balance to feel whole and avoid burnout.

Practicing self-care and attention, even in session, can help avoid burnout. Have a coffee in session. Sip it slowly. Take in the light that’s streaming through the window. Our clients need us to be present and alive when we’re meeting with them.

2. Practice Presence

What do you need to be present in session even in the face of others’ pain? Will always having food or tea with you help? Do you need different cushions on your chair? How about comfy clothes? A fan in the heat of summer? You may need a whole little apothecary on the table next to you to symbolize that you are present and caring for yourself while you care for your client.

Contrary to what we may have been taught, we do not need to hide our pain from our clients. We can let them know what we are going through. Clients benefit from having a full human being with them who is giving, receiving, experiencing joys, struggling, and even suffering themselves. Giving yourself permission to be a full person that is comfortable in the therapy room allows you to be truly present.

We need not clear everything out of our mind, be totally empty, and have no distractions in order to be present. I have seen new therapists who won’t remove their gaze from the client in session. That is too rigid. Instead, to avoid burnout, it helps to stay relaxed and open. We don’t need to override being human to be present in session.

3. Receive Care

Giving and receiving are connected. To effectively give to our clients and avoid burnout, we need to be adept at receiving. Receiving a breath, receiving a hug, receiving food, receiving sunlight, receiving sleep, and receiving company with people are all simple ways of taking in life so that we have more to give. Excessive giving can be a defense against receiving, as it can sometimes feel vulnerable to receive. To be impactful at giving to our clients, and to understand the control and power we have as therapists, we need to work on our ability to receive, and remove any barriers to taking in life.

For instance, how do you receive gifts from clients when they give you a present to express their gratitude? We are supposed to give to our clients, but the tables turn when they give to us. It is important for us to be open in those moments and receive the gratitude being offered. Instead of saying, “Oh, thank you very much,” and then putting the gift away, we might instead make a show of it, and ceremonially receive what they bring. Being fed by them in some way might help us be even more effective at feeding them overall and help to avoid burnout.

4. Embrace Your Humanity

Therapists are human too. When we are in pain, we need to be able to embrace our humanity and care for ourselves. To be effective at managing our clients’ pain, we must respond to our own suffering with warmth and self-compassion. Otherwise, we cannot practice real, deep compassion for others. When you give others a break for being a certain way, but won’t let yourself be that same way, it is not real compassion. It is unnecessarily beating yourself up, thinking that you need to be strong to help.

It is human to be weak. I have been surprised when I start hinting to clients that I don’t have it all together, they respond more effectively to treatment. When we are vulnerable with clients, we are sharing with them what it is to be human – that we are not always doing well. We acknowledge that the human experience is varied, that we are not ideal, but instead very human.

To avoid burnout, may the person you are be the same as the therapist that you are. May who you are in the therapy room be the same as who you are outside the office. You will feel way more at ease. Let your clients see you. They want to be seen and they want to be able to see you. Remember that your ability to see others only goes as far as your ability to be seen.

About the Author: David Klow, founder and owner of Skylight Counseling Center and Skylight Healing Center, is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). He is the author of the new book, Inspiration for the Weary Therapist: A Practical Clinical Companion, from Routledge Press.