When computers, smartphones, and tablets all came on the scene, they brought with them promises of stress-free convenience. No more worrying about stamps and post offices when sending mail, no more worrying about confusing paper maps when in a new place, no more waiting until you got home before ordering a pizza.
Yet the end result has been that we spend more time than ever in front of these screens, and it’s having an effect on both our physical and mental health. Being able to reach anybody, at any time of day, also means we are now on call from dusk til dawn, and it can often seem like work is always a button push away.
Add to that our social media networks, the wealth of news, lifestyle, and health sites we visit, and the typical computer issues and problems everyone has to deal with, and it can even seem like our personal lives have become work-related tasks to be managed. With so little work and leisure separation it is no wonder that we are stressed out more than ever, and our technological ‘conveniences’ tend to add more rather than help.
Here are some ways to fight computer stress:
1. Do one thing at a time – and do it well
Without multi-tasking, nothing would get done, but there’s also a time and place to concentrate on single things. When using a computer, it’s common to have a bunch of things open, multiple tabs, skype, facebook, email, perhaps a work document or two. The result is that we are open to any distraction at any time, and each thing we do is constantly being interrupted by another. It becomes like a game of stamp the mole. If you’ve ever spent an hour on the computer and not actually remembered what you’ve done, the chances are you spent most of that time flitting between trivial tasks, and doing nothing properly.
2. Use paper
With companies all over pushing a never-ending series of phones, ereaders, apps, laptops, and tablets at ever turn, it’s easy to forget that until about a decade ago, we got by pretty well with just a pen and paper. It’s not glamorous, and you won’t find any fancy adverts talking it up, but if you ever find yourself suffering from eye-strain, sleep problems, or even bad posture, you could do a lot worse than picking up a notepad, a printer, or some sheets of a4 and doing some things the old way.
3. Speak face-to-face whenever you can
If you’ve ever had to hold work-related meetings over Skype, or communicated with your partner over text chat, you’ve probably experienced those moments of exasperation where misinterpreted meanings or over-thinking a text can drive you crazy.
It’s no secret that the vast majority of communication is non-verbal, and things that can be expressed instantly face to face can take a painful amount of time through computer screens. Imagine the last time you hung out with friends you had instead spent that time on a Skype chat – chances are it would be half as fun. Take every opportunity to talk face-to-face whenever you can.
4. Do things outside (even if that something is nothing)
Sure, shopping online is often cheaper. And of course, who would wait in line at the bank when you can do your banking online. Though there’s no doubt being able to do certain things at home is a great addition to modern life, it’s easy to reach the point where you struggle to find reasons to go outside at all.
All of that means you get less fresh air, less exercise, and spend less time just unwinding. We all need gaps in the day to decompress, and those hours spent just driving, window-shopping, or walking are great for us, as noticeably dull as they may seem. Never underestimate how much doing nothing can declog your mind and give your thoughts room to breathe.
Computers don’t always directly cause stress, but indirectly they can create situations where stress thrives. Not finding time to intimately focus on something, or simply writing down some thoughts, or maybe even disconnecting us from the joys of physical company or a gentle walk. Recognising this can be one of the biggest hurdles in combating stress, and is something everyone should consider.
Johnny Peters is a designer with over 8 years experience in many fields from UI design to architecture. He is currently writing on behalf of ESP Print Management in Brisbane.