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Why It Takes More than Unplugging to Solve Modern Stress


Stashed in: #health, Stress, Believe, Stories, @DanielPink

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These days I find myself less concerned by technology and tech addiction than by the stories we tell ourselves about technology and how stressed we are by it. 

Our stories matter. They form our perceptions which, in turn, become the translators of our every moment. A stressor in the broadest sense is any stimulus that knocks us out of balance. That stimulus can be real, but it can also be imagined. And right there, within the particulars of how we perceive things, lies the devil of modern stress. 

Stress is not what happens to you, but how you think about what’s happening to you. 

If you believe yourself to be under siege by technology, so you shall be, both physiologically and psychologically. And this is exactly why we need to bring our stories about our digital lives in line with reality.

Over the past decade, thought leaders from various disciplines have been pointing to a shift under way in our world. Author Daniel Pink observes in his book, “A Whole New Mind,” that we are entering a new age, “animated by a different form of thinking and a new approach to life.” I believe that a great deal of what we perceive as stress and overwhelm is due to growing pains, as we enter this new age and evolve beyond quickly deteriorating constructs that no longer work for us. The real puzzle when it comes to our digital lives has less to do with technology and more to do with the twin issues of moderation and sustainability — issues with which we are dealing on many other fronts as well, including our food supplies, diets, spending, clutter, lifestyle, economy and income inequality, and planet and environment.

REFRAMING

Photo by Rishi S on Flickr and used with Creative Commons license.

So what do moderation and sustainability look like when it comes to technology? Reframing our greatest stress points highlights the following principles:

  • Community. Research underscores the importance of relationships and community and points to the need for downtime, playtime and family time, carefully guarded and prioritized, and woven consciously and expressly throughout our days and our children’s days.
  • Sacred Spaces. Literature highlights the need to establish wide-open “sacred spaces” both within and without, free of distractions, to create, imagine and put things together, and tosimply be.
  • Influencers … We must understand the profound impact of emotional contagion and how both good and negative emotions can spread quickly through technology and social networks.
  • … and buffers. Mindful of emotional contagion, we must preserve the boundaries of our world when necessary, learning to be selective about what (and whom) we choose to expose ourselves to, particularly during the most vitriolic and heated period of a crisis. We must be judicious and disciplined about how and when to shut down the devices to protect ourselves and our families — particularly children — from overwhelming circumstances and people.
  • Self-awareness and discipline. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. And while most of us are well aware of this principle, our behaviors and habits are often mindless and automatic. Asking the uncomfortable “whys” and embarking upon self-reflection, mindfulness, meditation and an examination of the power of habit can serve as critical modifiers of behavior and dramatically influence destructive stress patterns in our lives.

Digital detoxes, fasts and Sabbaths can be great, but they are often little more than Band-Aid solutions. Stress is ultimately the tale of personal sustainability, and the real issue with technology is not whether it is overwhelming or hurting us, but whether our everyday habits and practices are sustainable over the long term. The answer for many is a resounding no, and herein lies our opportunities for growth, evolution and greater mastery as our society works to usher in a new age animated by fresh thinking and novel approaches to our lives, relationships and work.

More for your Daniel Pink stash. :)

A lot of the language in this seems to assume that people can't learn, adapt, and change.  Some seem to have slowed down drastically, but everyone can adapt to some extent.  Encouraging positive adaptability using a number of strategies is a key part of reducing stress of change.

Separately, there is a big difference between those who are miscellaneous consumers, adopting new things at their own pace, and entrepreneurial technologists who, both by nature and to enable competitive participation, surf and grok as much as possible.  The latter become professional adapters.  The stresses are somewhat different, leading to different coping mechanisms perhaps.  A true technophile gains pleasure, excitement, and motivation from interesting new innovations.  Stand back, I'm a professional.

Can non-professional neophiles become adapted to a high rate of change?  Should they?  Will they have to regardless?

Someone well adapted to a particular flow of potential distractions can "simply be" in their presence.  A well-seasoned and successful parent is completely comfortable with kids running around playing, babies crying a bit, and coaching a soccer team of 8 year olds, while others cringe.  A well-adapted city dweller can feel alone and contemplative in a streaming crowd of people while others are panicked.  Similarly, a neophile enjoys change, expects it, would miss it, and can be completely comfortable with most types of evolution of the world.

It would be interesting to assess these kinds of strategies and experiences while contrasting various types of backgrounds and types of neophillic preparation.  For instance, there is likely a large correlation with having read and watched a wide range of sci-fi.

It this closing, and the recommendations that precede it, that I think let people off the hook for being responsible for changes that would help them:

Stress is ultimately the tale of personal sustainability, and the real issue with technology is not whether it is overwhelming or hurting us, but whether our everyday habits and practices are sustainable over the long term. The answer for many is a resounding no, and herein lies our opportunities for growth, evolution and greater mastery as our society works to usher in a new age animated by fresh thinking and novel approaches to our lives, relationships and work.

He is putting the reader who feels things are unsustainable and who answers with a resounding no in a too-passive stance: While it is fine to do what you need to to cope, the idea that you can evolve yourself is only hinted at in an ambiguous way.

How about this? :

We understand why you feel like you can't cope, but actually you can if you take responsibility for managing your stress.

I like that.  How about this:

It is not unusual to feel that you may not be able to cope if the pace of things continues or "gets worse".  However, many have been able to adapt to periodic improvements by thinking about things in a slightly different way and by practicing certain stress-lowering strategies.  Embracing and having fun with change is possible for you.

A lot of angst is caused by fearful ways of looking at the world: We're going to run out of water, food, energy, clean *, space, freedom, time, etc.  While we need to be reasonably prudent and efficient, generally these are all false worries.  We have it easily within our grasp to provide more energy, food, water, space, things, education, entertainment, personal challenges & growth, art, and everything else to just about everyone.  The only problem is how to reasonably get from here to there.  The journey is frustrating, and unfortunate to those who suffer, but getting there eventually is very likely to be inevitable.

Right!

The anxiety comes from a feeling of lack of control.

We assuage that anxiety by demonstrating the inevitability of a solution.