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Plugged In…Stressed Out: How to Decompress in a Wired World

Plugged In…Stressed Out: How to Decompress in a Wired World

Emails. Texts. Tweets. Facebook posts. LinkedIn connections. Pinterest. IPhones. IPods. IPads. No time to chat? Tweet it or text it. With one keystroke, we can be anywhere, do anything, and connect with anyone. But is it costing us?

Current research suggests that techno geeks and screen addicts all over the globe are spending about 18 hours per week tethered to networking devices; a drastic rise since 2000 when a mere 2.7 hours a week was reportedly spent. Studies also show that the constant stimulation of a mind always in motion changes how the brain processes information.

The multitasking ability that technology has afforded us has blurred the boundaries between work, leisure, relationships, and real life. Technology has promised to maximize our time with the advent of iPhones synced to our computers and tablets we can carry on the go, but the real question is…What are we making more time for?

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Technology is a wonderful thing, but if you’re finding yourself stressed out, overwhelmed or addicted to always being “plugged in” here is a prescription for getting back in the real game of life:

Start noticing

Have a get real with yourself talk. No one has to tell you if you’re spending too much time “plugged in”—- you know. Notice how sitting at the computer for hours makes you feel physically. Scan your body for tension and stress. Sitting for hours a day at a computer can make your muscles feel achy. That may be a signal you need to get up and start moving.

Put your smartphone to bed without you

Swedish researchers found that using electronic devices too much before bedtime can make it hard to wind down and sleep. There were also links to stress overload depression and insomnia in the study. If you want a good night’s sleep, take a break, from your computer and mobile devices.

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Get down and dirty

Get outside. Breathe the fresh air. Get into the woods. Spend some conscious dedicated time to playing outdoors. And leave your cell phone home! Most of us spend so much time hooked up behind a desk, we’re spending less and less time in the sunshine and fresh air; thus the epidemic vitamin D deficiency we’re seeing in U.S. adults.

Get naked

If you’re a walker, runner, hiker, or biker, make a point to shed your electronic devices so that you can actually focus on nature. That’s right, no iPod, and no iPhone. If you’re outside, spend time really enjoying nature. Soak in the sights around you. Take time to let you’re your mind decompress and be still. Give yourself time to think.

Connect with someone real

We were made for relationships—real ones. Many screen addicts’ live virtual lives with people they don’t really know, or they create virtual worlds they think will satisfy only to feel more estranged and lonely. Try ditching your virtual life for the real thing. Have a conversation. Laugh. Cry. Be real. It’s great medicine for the soul.

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Take five

Start by taking five minutes a day to reduce stress. Get up. Get out, and get moving. If you’re at work, take your coffee outside and walk on your break. Sit outside on your lunch hour. Schedule vacation time away and be intentional about it. Plan some long weekends to get away and leave your computer at home. Be intentional about taking breaks from your electronic devices.

We all know the Leave It to Beaver life of the 1950’s is gone forever, but isn’t it nice to remember the days when you could walk across the street, drop in on your neighbor without calling or texting and have a cup of coffee and chat?

Technology has promised us more time, but has it delivered? Or has it drawn us deeper and deeper into the bottomless abyss of cyberspace where more time means more time to devote to machines instead of people?

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Most of us would agree the benefits of technology have been astounding, but even too much of a good thing can be risky business. Start today, commit to unplug and unwind.

Back at you: Has the cyberspace world we live in created more or less stress in your life? What are you doing to decompress and unplug?

Featured photo credit:  Pretty young woman standing against sky via Shutterstock

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Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

Keeping yourself awake at work can be a real challenge when you’re bored, exhausted or sleep-deprived.

But before you reach for that can of Red Bull, bottle of Mountain Dew, or pot of coffee, try these healthy remedies to stimulate your 5 different senses and help you stay awake at work:

Sight – Visual Stimulation

The first thing you do when you wake up is opening your eyes, so your visual stimulation is very important to keeping your energy level high.

1. Maximize your exposure to light.

Your body’s internal rhythm is regulated by the amount of light you receive. The greater your exposure, the more alert you will feel.

Open the shades and let in the sunlight. Step outside or look out the window. Turn on all the artificial lights in your office or around your work space.

2. Exercise your eyes (or give them a break).

Roll your eyes up and down, side to side and diagonally. Rotate them clockwise and then counterclockwise. Squeeze them shut and then open them wide. Do this several times.

Reading and sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods can lead to eye fatigue.

Take regular breaks with deliberate blinking and looking out into the distance.

3. Take note of your environment.

Learn to enjoy people-watching. Observe their activities, speech, body language and interactions with others. Notice the details of building, trees and other objects around you, including their color, shape and size.

By doing this, you’re not only relaxing your eye muscles but also calming your mind.

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Hearing – Auditory Stimulation

What you hear or listen to have direct effect on your brain. This is why we feel so annoyed and sometimes angry when we hear construction noise when we’re working.

4. Engage in conversation.

Talk to a friend or colleague. Trade funny stories. Discuss your business venture, a creative idea, the latest political scandal, or any other topic that interests you.

Practice mindful listening to what you and the other person are saying. Tune into the tone, volume and content of the conversation.

Learn how to practice better listening from this guide:

Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

5. Listen to upbeat music.

Try hip hop, rock or jazz to keep you alert. Instrumental, non-distracting music works best.

Sing, whistle, and hum along if you can. Plug in the earphones if you must.

Smell – Olfactory Stimulation

If you’re feeling sleepy and suddenly smell the coffee, you’ll probably feel more energetic. This is why smell is an influential stimulation.

6. Work your nose.

Aroma therapists recommend essential oils of peppermint (to boost energy), rosemary (to build awareness), eucalyptus (to increase oxygen), cedarwood  (to activate your mind), and cinnamon (to improve your reaction time).

If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can use lotions or burning candles that provide the same scents.

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Citrus like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are also natural olfactory stimulants. Get a whiff of these citrus scents to stay awake.

Taste – Gustatory Stimulation

If you want an energetic day at work, you can’t let your tongue feeling plain and flavorless.

7. Have a good breakfast.

Start off with the most important meal of the day.

Think fresh, light and healthy: bran cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits, and yogurt.

Nix the heavy stuff like sausages, greasy eggs or pancakes.

Need some breakfasts inspirations? Check out these ideas:

20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

8. Drink lots of water.

Keep a glass or bottle of H2O near you and sip from it throughout the day. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and sleepy.

So make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Not sure how much to drink? This can help you:

How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day (and How Much Is Too Much for You)

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Think that you’ve been drinking too little water? Try these friendly reminders:

3 Best Apps To Help You Drink Much More Water

9. Eat energy-boosting snacks.

Nuts and fruits (like bananas, apples and strawberries) are sure bets. Pairings with staying power include baby carrots with a low-fat cream cheese dip; celery sticks with peanut butter; red peppers with hummus; and plain yogurt with granola.

Avoid carb-filled, sugary snacks that make you crash and leave you feeling tired.

Here you can find some healthy snack ideas:

25 Healthy Snack Recipes To Make Your Workday More Productive

Touch – Tactile Stimulation

Last but not least, your sense of touch will make you physically feel more energetic and less stressful.

10. Splash cold water on your face.

Do this in the morning, during bathroom breaks and in the afternoon. Being exposed to cold water pushes your body to adjust and regulate its internal temperature, which in turn keeps you alert.

This works the same as you take a cold shower to increase mood and alertness. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

5 Surprising Benefits of Cold Showers

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11. Use acupressure.

Apply pressure to, massage, or tap on the stimulation points of your body. These include the top of your head, the back of your neck, the back of your hand (between the thumb and index finger), just below the knee and your earlobes.

Watch this video to learn about the acupressure points you can try:

12. Get moving.

Move away from your chair and stand, walk, run or climb the stairs. Feel the earth under your feet. Stretch and twist. Do jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups and back bends.

And if you need to move more discreetly, wiggle your feet, bounce your knee up and down, scrunch your toes, or cross your legs.

You can also try some simple stretches and exercises at your desk:

Unlike addictive caffeine fixes, these remedies activate your senses, engage your attention, amp up your energy and prevent morning grogginess and afternoon slumps without the side effects or health risks.

Pick a few ways from this list of suggestions and practice them consistently. And when you do this consistently, you’ll soon see the positive results — a more energetic and productive you at work.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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