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How Device Addicted Are You? Three Mindful Strategies to Manage Digital Interruptions

Posted By Alison Hutchens  
17/10/2019
14:00 PM

Did you know that a high percentage of people actually wake up stressed? They are stressed before they get out of bed. It is sometimes referred to as the “Stress Response Zone.” This is mainly because the first thing they do when they wake up is reach for their device and start reading emails and social media rather than taking those first few moments for a few mindful breaths.

Waking Up to Social Media

Diving headfirst into email or social media first thing in the morning can create stress. Think about it for a moment what’s your relationship like with your device? Are you inseparable? Are you someone who reaches for your device when you wake up? Email and social media can begin a cycle of thinking, worrying and even anxiety first thing in the morning and can impact your mood and the rest of your day.

There appears to be a misconception in the modern workplace that in order to be successful in our careers we need to be constantly online and available. This encourages us to turn on our devices early in the morning and late at night which is not good for our mental and physical health. In fact the science demonstrates our phones inhibit our sleep duration and quality.

The Blue light, whether from the sun, your phone or laptop, is very effective at inhibiting melatonin production,, this reduces both the quantity and quality of your sleep by affecting your pineal gland. Many studies suggest that blue light in the evening disrupts your brain's natural sleep-wake cycles, which are crucial for optimal health

 “Always On”

The other challenge these days is that we are available 24 X 7 via so many channels. We can be in the middle of writing a document  and the  phone will ring, an email arrives into your “inbox” and there is also a chime to notify you of an SMS, a WhatsApp message, Voxer, a LinkedIn notification, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Twitter or even Slack…. just to name a few.

Many of us also feel compelled to respond to a text immediately and believe that the phone should be answered within 4 rings. Then there are the multiple other social media channel chimes or simple reminders that pop up. This makes it near impossible to be mindful in our everyday lives nor have a lot of down time away from the various channels.

We tend to think that multitasking across channels is effective or clever but in fact it is can be counterproductive. When we complete a Tweet, or a Facebook post it stimulates a dopamine response which is known as a “reward hormone” in our brains. The brain loves dopamine and encourages us to do more and more. We will switch from task to task to satisfy our brains request for instant gratification. This has become an addictive process and makes it more difficult to structure our thoughts and think clearly at work.

Social Media Addiction Cycles

 Statista reports that the average person spends 135 minutes on social media each day, following an upward trend of increasing time spent on social media each year. Neuroscientists are studying the effects of social media on the brain and finding that positive interactions (such as someone liking your tweet) trigger the same kind of chemical reaction that is caused by gambling and recreational drugs.

According to an article by Harvard University researcher Trevor Haynes, when you get a social media notification, your brain sends a chemical messenger called dopamine along a reward pathway, which makes you feel good. Dopamine is associated with food, exercise, love, sex, gambling, drugs … and now, social media.

Device Addiction

As well as social media addiction, people are addicted to being constantly tethered to their physical devices. I often observe people exhibiting this kind of behaviour and at the same time complain that they find it hard to get things done.

Many of us accept digital interruption as normal, yet we dislike it when actual humans, work colleagues come and tap us on the shoulder and interrupt us. We are so busy with our virtual world and digital device we do not have time for “Mindful Listening” or a “Mindful Conversation” in the most important sense, face-to-face.

 Often we are not aware that we are allowing all the digital interruption to take place. One of my pet hates is that when I am in mid conversation with someone and the person that I am talking with reaches for their phone to respond to a text or a call. Not only do I find it disrespectful, but it can also interrupt the flow of a good productive conversation.

We can also quite easily slip into the “Stress Response Zone” when we are trying to respond to all channels and keep on top of our “to do list”. Do you ever feel like you never get to the bottom of your “to do list” in a day?

3 Simple Tips to Manage Your Digital Interruptions:

1/Allocate specific time to check emails and make calls and turn off the notifications:

This can help you be more efficient. If you allocate time to make calls and read emails, it can give you the freedom to do other things and forget your phone and computer during this time. I also try to action my emails on the spot when I read them. You could also allocate time for zero interruptions. For example, I have a colleague at Mindful Life Training  who is currently finishing her PHD and when she needs to concentrate on something, she turns off all alarms, her phone and sets a timer for 45 minutes of zero interruptions so that she can focus on the task at hand.

2/Communicate across fewer channels: 

Call me old fashioned but when I am working, I communicate with most of my contacts through text and email. This helps me as I find my contacts in fewer places. I am not searching across multiple channels to find people. It saves me a lot of time and I find that I am a lot more efficient.

3/Schedule some rest:

 Make sure you unplug and get some rest otherwise it is very hard to be productive. Try and avoid looking at your device when you are eating. You will enjoy your food a lot more and it will be easier to digest. Try not to look at your device at least an hour before bedtime. This will leave your mind in a more positive state ensuring you have a good quality sleep. Imagine waking up and starting your day with greater clarity? Try and resist the temptation of reaching for your device first thing when you wake up.

For more information on how to  manage stress in your everyday life at work check out our special offers for our  Mental Health Week in October with Mindful Life Training .

And connect with me, Alison Hutchens here on LinkedIn.

“I’m curious, what are your most annoying digital interruptions?”