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Technostress: Learning How to Cope With Information Overload

Technology's impact on society is a double-edged sword. While advancements have brought convenience and connection to our lives, they can also have detrimental effects.

For example, think about the last time you lost, broke or just couldn't locate your smartphone in your own home. Or, consider a time when you were enjoying yourself while out for a meal and you received a work email. Such events can cause some to panic or feel anxious.

Relying too heavily on devices and apps is a slippery slope. So, how can you find a healthy balance?

A Definition

One way technology negatively impacts the human body relates to its generation of irritation, frustration, anxiety and stress. It even has a name: In 1984, American psychologist Craig Brod coined the term "technostress." If it was enough of a problem to raise concern back in the mid-1980s, one can imagine how pervasive it is now.

Brod first defined technostress as a "modern disease of adaptation caused by an inability to cope with new computer technologies in a healthy manner." Two other American psychologists, Larry Rosen and Michelle M. Weil, later revised the concept, expanding upon the definition: "any negative impact on attitudes, behaviors, or psychology caused directly or indirectly by technology."

When the Office Follows You Home

With Rosen and Weil's broader definition, technostress reaches far and wide — affecting individuals of all demographics. It also blurs the boundaries between home life and the work (or school) environment.

Whereas people used to leave work "at the office," now, the office travels with you almost everywhere via laptop or smartphone. Emails are a click away — but once you answer one, there's another one (or 20) waiting in the wings.

And, while it might seem efficient to work while eating dinner, doing so may actually dampen productivity. Research has shown that multitasking heightens the body's biochemical and physiologic systems, spiking stress levels and reducing focus.

Tech's Impact on "Real Life" Relationships

Technostress's impact on relationships is also worrisome. Many professionals feel like they are always on call, constantly forced to take time and attention away from family and friends. As a result, some start to feel isolated and wrapped up in their work.

Or, when they do take a break, it's not spent engaging with others in the physical sense, but rather checking social media or playing a mindless gaming app.

Getting Physical

One's physiological health can also suffer. For example, poor sleep patterns are often associated with technostress. When used at night, devices can interfere with the body's natural rhythms and prevent quality sleep. An increasing number of people today suffer from "tech neck" from the misalignment that occurs when working with or viewing devices.

All of these consequences combine to create a perfect storm. The good news is, there are some simple ways to mitigate technostress in both your personal and professional life.

5 Tactics to Tackle Technostress

The following tactics may help manage the information overload you encounter daily.

1) Just say no (for a bit, at least). Some things can wait. Put your phone or email alerts in silent mode, even if it's just for an hour. Those emails and texts will still be there when you resume.

2) Focus on one activity or task at a time. Science says we no longer have to revere multitasking. Instead, you'll improve your concentration and ultimately be more productive by taking one thing at a time.

3) Know what you know and what you don't. There's always going to be a new piece of information available at any given moment. There's no way you can reasonably keep up with everything at once, so accept that.

4) Beware of the "latest and greatest" gadgets. Of course, technology will not stop advancing, but it's important to ask yourself if new software or another tech "solution" will benefit you.

5) Put your devices to sleep, so you can. An optimal sleep environment would be device-free. If you must have devices in your sleep area, try to not use them in bed. For example, if you use a phone as your alarm, keep it out of reach.

Be Part of the Solution

Technology isn't going anywhere, and technostress will never be eliminated. Even professionals trained in mental health care aren't immune from its effects. However, these individuals do have an advantage in recognizing technostress and mitigating it, making them a valuable resource.

In fact, if you're in the nursing field, you may want to consider earning a Post-Master's Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) Certificate. It is designed to allow students who already hold a master's degree in nursing to specialize as psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners without having to complete a full master's degree.

With this fast-track program, you can gain skills to build healthy mental health habits, especially those related to technostress. Knowledge in this realm with allow you as a healthcare professional to help yourself and others by making a significant difference in their lives.

Learn more about Northern Kentucky University's Post-Master's Psych-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) Certificate online program.

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